The Japanese and East Asians have a game called
"Go." Unlike the Western game of chess, where two opponents try
to "defeat" each other by taking off pieces, the aim of
"Go" is completely different. You "win" not by
defeating but by immobilizing your opponent by controlling key points on
the matrix. This strategy was used effectively in Vietnam, where small
forces of Viet Cong were able to pin down and virtually paralyze some
half-million American soldiers possessing overwhelming fire-power.
In effect Israel has done the same thing to the
Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem. Since 1967 it
has put into place a matrix, similar to that of the "Go" board,
that has virtually paralyzed the Palestinian population. The matrix is
composed of several overlapping layers.
First is the actual physical control of key links and
nodes that create the matrix of control – settlements and their extended
"master plans;" a massive system of highways and by-pass roads
(including wide "sanitary" margins); army bases and industrial
parks at key locations; closed military areas; "nature
preserves;" control of aquifers and other natural resources; internal
checkpoints and control of all border crossings; areas "A,"
"B," "C," "D," "H-1,"
"H-2" and much more. These define the matrix of constricted
Palestinian enclaves and effectively divide them from one another. They
also give Israel control of key "nodes."
The second layer of the matrix is bureaucratic and
"legal" -- all the planning, permits and policies that entangle
the Palestinian population in a tight web of restrictions. These include
political zoning of land as "agricultural" in order to freeze
the natural development of towns and villages; a politically motivated
system of building permits, enforced by house demolitions, designed to
confine the population to its constricted enclaves, land expropriation for
(solely Israeli) "public purposes;" restrictions of planting and
the wholesale destruction of Palestinian crops; licensing and inspection
of Palestinian businesses; closure; restrictions on movement and travel;
and more. Although Israel is careful to present its policies as
"legal," in fact they are not. The failure to guarantee
Palestinians the basic human rights provided by the Geneva Convention and
other international covenants – upon which Israel has signed – is
patently illegal. The extensive use of Israeli court system, which
invariably rules against Palestinians, as a means of controlling the local
population makes a mockery of the link between law and justice. All these
confine Palestinians to isolated cantons, control their movement and
maintain Israeli hegemony.
The third layer of the matrix involves the use of violence
to maintain control over the matrix -- the military occupation itself,
including massive imprisonment and torture; the extensive use of
collaborators to control the local population; pressures exerted on
families to sell their lands; the undemocratic, arbitrary and violent rule
of the Military Commander of the West Bank and the Civil Administration.
What Israelis know of this system they justify in terms of
The average Israeli has no concept of this matrix, and so
for most Israelis "peace" means simply giving up the minimum
territory that would "satisfy" the Palestinians and ending
"terrorism." Average Palestinians are highly attuned to the
presence of the matrix, since they hit up against it every time they move.
But it is crucial to the achievement of a just and viable peace that the
nature of the matrix as an integrated system of control be fully
comprehended. The Palestinians can wrest 95% of the Occupied Territories
from Israel, can oversee the dismantling of almost all the settlements and
can establish a recognized state, but unless they effectively dismantle
the "matrix of control" a viable Palestinian state will elude
them. It is not control of territory alone that is important; it is
identifying and neutralizing the key nodes of the matrix.
The structure and workings of the matrix – and
especially its controlling nodes -- are subtle and require careful
analysis. Some of its control points are obvious. The "E-1" area
of 13,000 dunums between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim that was recently
annexed effectively cuts the West Bank in two and is antithetical to any
notion of a viable Palestinian state. Still, Barak apparently promised the
National Religious Party that the order would not be rescinded, and not
much protest to that has been voiced. Other nodes are less obvious. The
Israeli-conceived road system of Jerusalem and the West Bank, for example,
converges in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim. Even if the Palestinian gain
control of the surrounding region but leaves that one settlement, Israel
simply has to declare Ma’aleh Adumim a "closed military area"
in order to paralyze movement within any Palestinian entity. Even more
subtle nodes of control exist elsewhere. Only a several meter-wide strip
between Ramallah and Bir Zeit, just enough for one Israeli military jeep,
is sufficient for controlling movement in that area. A narrow Israeli
strip between Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, as well as similar slivers all
over the West Bank, contribute to the matrix of control.
Settlements are crucial to preserving the matrix not so
much because of the land they occupy, but because of the control
mechanisms that necessarily surround them. Thus, while the settlements
take up only about 1.5% of the West Bank, their master plans cover more
than 6%. Add that that the supporting infrastructure of roads (by-pass
roads, conceived in Oslo as being only minor roads connecting settlements,
have become a major mechanism of control), of industrial areas, of
military installations and other "security" arrangements, of
checkpoints and so on, and it becomes obvious that leaving a tiny yet
strategically-located settlement in place effectively nullifies the
gaining of territory around it.
The only meaningful way to dismantle the matrix is to
eliminate it completely. That means removing all the settlements from
Palestinian territory, replacing closure and checkpoints by normal (and
minimal) border arrangements agreed upon by both sides, and removing
Israeli military presence to agree-upon security points on the external
borders only for a limited period of time. But if this turns out not to be
possible and an Israeli presence remains, it is imperative that it not
constitute a matrix of control. Understanding the matrix and its workings
is critical for Palestinian success in the negotiations. The very gap
between Israel and Palestinian map-making abilities and uses is worrying.
As an Israeli who seeks a just and viable peace between our peoples, I
hope the Palestinian negotiating team utilizes all the expertise at its
disposal to avoid concessions that will in the end leave Palestine little
more than a Bantustan.