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Disengagement Critics Were Mistaken


In less than two weeks, the settlements of Gaza have been evacuated. In one or two more weeks, the houses will be demolished, with the consent of the Palestinians, and four isolated settlements in the West Bank have been evacuated too.

The disengagement plan, announced by Sharon 1.5 years ago, is a fact. Opponents on the right as well as the left were convinced it wouldn't happen, either because Sharon would not 'betray' the people he supported during most of his career, or else because God would prevent such an immoral act, or because, as they claimed, Sharon proposed it only to divert world attention from Israeli wrongs in the territories and would find an excuse to not carry it out in the end. They have all been proven wrong. The Israeli government has shown it is able to carry out a plan against the will of the settlers, but supported by a majority of the Israeli citizens. That is a major gain for Israeli democracy, that was too often manipulated by the powerful settler movement. Predictions that it would lead to a civil war, and masses of soldiers would refuse to participate in the execution of the disengagement, did not come true. Except for a few bad incidents, like activists throwing eggs and toxic fluid on the soldiers[ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/615689.html], there was not much violence. The soldiers got special training in dealing with the anger of the settlers and sometimes they succeeded in convincing the settlers to leave peacefully. Some even walked out of the settlers' houses or the synagogue together with the settlers, both crying for the loss of their community. Others had to drag the settlers out while being called Nazis. Israel has shown both professionalism and determination in the execution of the disengagement plan. It has also shown it is able to remove settlements from 'Eretz Israel', and so reverse 'facts on the ground'.

I can understand the pain of giving up communities where people lived for 10, 20 or even 30 years, communities they believed they never would have to abandon, although even Sharon said from the beginning they can't be sure it will be Israeli forever. I cannot understand however that they yell 'Nazi' at Israeli soldiers and compare their evacuation with the Shoah (Holocaust). Jews are in general very sensitive to comparisons of the Shoah to other atrocities, and myself being not Jewish, I fully respect that. Jews rightly condemn the disgusting comparisons some advocates of the Palestinians make between the Shoah and the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and these comparisons should be condemned by all reasonable people in the harshest terms. I think it however likewise disgusting when Jewish settlers, who get generous compensation and have a safe place to go to, dare to compare themselves to the ultimate victims of cruelty and Jew-hatred. The soldiers they yell at might be sons of Shoah survivors. I am curious whether these settlers think for even a moment about the effect of their yelling on these people's minds and the conversations at their parents' homes.

Some settlers complain that the government did not organize alternative housing for them on time. Whereas they stayed in their homes until the very last moment waiting for intervention from the Almighty, and some even didn't pack their belongings properly and left their pets behind, they expect a made bed from the Israeli government.

Zionism didn't surrender by evacuating the Gaza strip, and it will not do so after possible future disengagements from parts of the West Bank. The settlers falsely position themselves as the true Zionists and pioneers, who defend Israel against the threat of surrounding Arab states. In reality, the Gaza settlements, as well as the isolated West Bank settlements, are a burden to Israeli security and have been defended at high costs both in money and human lives, not to speak of the 'moral costs' and Israel's bad image in the world. Palestinian terrorists from Gaza hardly managed to carry out attacks in Green Line Israel, except for the firing of rockets, which killed only a few people so far. There is certainly a danger of Palestinians fabricating and smuggling more and better rockets in to Gaza, but the settlements didn't help to prevent that in any way. Right wing people who say abandoning Gush Katif is the same as abandoning Tel Aviv are playing into the hands of anti-Zionists, who allege that both are occupied Palestinian territory and should be 'liberated'.

Will disengagement further or hamper further negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians?
Despite claims from the left that disengagement is only meant to strengthen Israel's hold on the West Bank, it can be an important step towards peace. It is the first time the Palestinians will rule over a contiguous territory. Moreover, contrary to the leftists' yelling about Gaza being a big open-air prison, negotiations are going on about a Palestinian seaport and a corridor to the West Bank, and Israel is negotiating with Egypt about abandoning the Philadelphi Road (border of Gaza with Egypt) [ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MewNews/message/28814.] The outcome of these negotiations is of course related to the ability of the Palestinians to keep order in Gaza and prevent rocket attacks from Hamas or other terrorist groups. If Gaza will be quiet, there will be tremendous pressure on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians. In particular, the USA can be expected to take the lead, as it has openly called for a contiguous Palestinian state on both Gaza and the West Bank, and has been very critical to ongoing Israeli settlement there and forbade Israel to move the Gaza settlers to the West Bank.

It is a bit strange, to put it mildly, that Israel is criticized by part of the left for evacuating territory and handing it over to the Palestinians. Some even call it a 'treacherous plan' of the cunning Sharon, meant to pull wool over the eyes of the international community. I will ignore the anti-Semitic connotations and focus on the fact that this can be said of every concession except for conceding at once to all Palestinian demands without getting anything in return. People who demand that, are not seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict, but the destruction of Israel. In their eyes, Israel can do nothing good, because Israel itself is the problem.

Sharon, as well as Abbas, wants maximal gain for his people with as few concessions as possible. In order to make concessions, both need to see the strategic gain for their own side. Altruism is scarce in the Middle East; it is not fair to blame only one side for this attitude.

It would undoubtedly be better if Israel had negotiated disengagement with the Palestinians, and offered it to Abbas as a reward for his condemnation of Palestinian terrorism. It then also could have asked something in return, and Abbas could have shown his people that negotiating bears more fruit than violence, whereas now Hamas claims that the disengagement is the result of their 'armed resistance'. The Palestinians however, have an opportunity to show they are able to control territory, and should grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Ratna Pelle

Ratna lives in Holland and writes about Israel and the Middle East. Her main blog in English is at

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000374.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Ratna Pelle @ 05:37 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 3 comments

This article has much truth in it and shows excellent insight into what is happening here. However, if I may add, much depends on whether the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas will do more to rein in the terror of Hamas and its allies. If he does not, then nothing will be achieved. The situation could deteriorate. If Hamas does not become pragmatic and change their attitude towards Israel, I do not see any corridor being built connecting Gaza with the West Bank. This could result in infiltration of terrorists.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a change of heart in Hamas. They stand a very strong chance of making serious inroads into Mahmoud Abbas's power base in the upcoming Palestinian elections.One of two things could happen.

1. Hamas could become more pragmatic if elected and discard their anti-Israel existence manifesto or at least put their manifesto on hold. Hamas has to do this in order that stability in the Palestinian areas could be maintained which could encourage foreign aid or investment.

2. Hamas could carry on the terror unabated in the hope of Israel disengaging from the West Bank. It worked in Gaza and perhaps, from their point of view it would work again in the West Bank. Hamas could remain adamant in not recognizing Israel's right to exist.

The main porn players in the achievement of peace lies in the hands of Hamas and her allies and not in Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority who are weak and ineffectual in combating terror. There is not much room for optimism in the future.

Posted by Shimon Z. Klein @ 08/25/2005 11:04 PM CST

I find it interesting that the withdrawl has displayed exhibitions of power and its effects upon those who acquire and wield it.
Sharon has demonstrated fundamental Israeli power by executing a unilateral withdrawl. He has at once complied with international demands to revert to the 1949 ceasefire line; consigned Oslo etc to the sidelines; reminded the Palestinians that despite their bluster and violence they remain largely impotent; asserted the power of the Knesset, and his own office; asserted Israel as a sovereign state caopable of marking out its own future.
The settlers, who swaggered seemingly drunk on the new found power, dscovered it to be an empty vessel. Their illusion of power rested upon the willingness of the Israeli majority to acquiesce to their demands, and when that acquiescence disappeared so did their power.
Hamas is not unlike the settlers in this respect. They swagger intoxicated by their own rhetoric, yet are totally incapable of delivering up to the Palestinians the quality of life they deserve and desire.
Abbas looked like a very old man with a very young vivacious wife on the day after the wedding. His power had brought him the prize, but his impotence denied him the chance to enjoy it.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 08/26/2005 10:09 PM CST

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