I am convinced from the depth of my heart and to the best of my understanding that this disengagement will strengthen Israel in its hold of the areas essential to our existence and will earn us the blessings and esteem of those near and far, will lessen hate, will break boycotts and blockades and will move us forward on the road to peace with the Palestinians and the rest of our neighbors.
– Ariel Sharon, October 25, 2004
This rosy prognosis – indeed this prophecy of peace and bliss – was delivered from the Knesset podium in that fateful plenum session in which the then-prime minister, having deviated 180 degrees from the platform on which he was elected and having cynically ignored the party referendum he insisted upon, formally sought parliamentary approval to uproot all 21 Gaza Strip settlements and four in northern Samaria as well.
The latter handful were an arbitrary afterthought, decided upon without any consultation or deliberation and without any perceptible purpose (their land is still under Israeli control), except to signal that nothing is sacrosanct, that the fate imposed on the Gaza settlements is contemplated for their Judea and Samaria counterparts. So much for the spurious notion that Gush Katif was being sacrificed for the sake of territories adjacent to the state’s densely-populated soft underbelly.
On this date three sad years ago, the last brave Gaza settlement – Netzarim – was cleansed of its Jews. The next day Samaria’s Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh were all emptied out as well. Sharon was the expulsion’s formidable driving force, but his gall and guile wouldn’t have sufficed without the connivance of his willing enablers. None of Sharon’s self-serving sidekicks had the intestinal fortitude then to dissent and none has since beaten his breast in contrition. They sat, saw, nodded, propagandized for the boss and were duly rewarded with political promotion.
They heard Sharon’s declaration of intent on December 18, 2003 at the Herzliya Conference, where he unveiled and rationalized his unilateral retreat scheme: “The purpose of the disengagement plan is to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security.” They helped peddle palliatives to the anxious populace, guaranteeing that “after disengagement the world will appreciate our goodwill and support us”; “after disengagement all kid gloves will be off”; “after disengagement no terror would be tolerated;” “after disengagement our artillery will pound them for every terrorist mortar shell”; “after disengagement we will have no more obligations to their welfare”; “after disengagement it will be another game with other rules.”
ENOUGH TIME has elapsed to evaluate the prophetic assurances tendered so confidently and authoritatively by Sharon and his coterie of unrepentant accomplices, led by flunky Ehud Olmert and his current would-be successor, the holier-than-thou Tzipi Livni. We now know for sure that not one upbeat prediction materialized.
No real surprise here. Enough among us warned in real time of the inevitable catastrophe, but the tendentious press derided us. Though any levelheaded person should have sensibly shared our eminently reasonable doubts, most of the media cheered the disengagement con – some because it suited their agenda and others because of downright cowardice.
Bottom line: Three years on, no sound individual can claim our “hold on vital territory” was strengthened – indeed our very right to exist is challenged as never before. Far from having earned “the blessings and esteem of those near and far,” Israel is more of an international pariah than prior to the disengagement, which undercut its claim to any of the Jewish heartland liberated in the 1967 war of self-defense. No boycotts and blockades were lifted, no hate lessened and no peace furthered.
Neither are we even a negligible smidgen more secure. Quite the contrary. Sharon and crew managed to magnify Ehud Barak’s Lebanese folly and demonstrate again that whatever terrain Israel relinquishes is destined to become a terror breeding ground. Just as Hizbullah was invigorated and reinforced in the north, so was Hamas in the south. Having learned that terror pays off, Gazans established Hamastan. The same is only a matter of time in Mahmoud Abbas’s residue Ramallah-centered bailiwick.
Instead of encouraging moderation, disengagement emboldened fanatic extremists and they arm themselves to the teeth. Not only is Sderot intimidated by Kassams, but Ashkelon has been attacked by Grads and urban centers like Ashdod grow chillingly vulnerable. With this kind of peace, who needs war?
MKs recently voted to commemorate the heritage of the 25 razed settlements and, with the avid endorsement of the state comptroller, the Knesset State Control Committee voted to set up a state commission of inquiry into the scandalous fact that most of the 10,000 expellees are still in a very sorry state. But their plight is certainly not the result of shortcomings in the welfare and social work sphere. They are the direct victims of a much deeper malaise which affects not only them. It imperils each and every Israeli.
INSTEAD OF focusing on the failure to resettle the evicted settlers, there should be a state inquiry into the process that allowed the disastrous disengagement to ever be marketed and foisted on the gullible citizenry. If the malfeasance isn’t exposed, we’re liable for more of the awful same. Disengagement’s central deception cost the entire Israeli collective the strategic deterrent indispensable to its survival, and it chipped away at the state’s Zionist ideological underpinnings. It substantially and indisputably weakened the country.
To avoid sequel grandiose diversions from and cover-ups of personal/political corruption, there must be no suppression of what spurred disengagement, of how policy-makers fell down on the job, how the judiciary rubber-stamped injustice and countenanced special semi-martial night courts which jailed demonstrating juveniles with outrageous disproportionality, of how democracy’s watchdogs and civil libertarians stayed dutifully silent. It would be enlightening to discover how the IDF, police and intelligence services were suborned into submission and collusion in a mass demonization campaign against the political opposition (to the point of disseminating calumnies about plotted coups d’etat).
But perhaps the reluctance to delve into dereliction/delinquency inestimably greater and more fundamental than that of the Second Lebanon War resides deeper in our psyche. By now, most Israelis, including plenty who compulsively persist in deluding themselves, sense that any probe into the fiasco that was disengagement will show that the electorate was hoodwinked by the latter-day likes of biblical fraudsters. Jeremiah (6:14) decried those “who facilely heal the shattering wounds of my people, saying ‘peace, peace,’ and there is no peace.”
But the fault isn’t only in disengagement’s false prophets but also their credulous clientele – in those who uncritically imbibe lies that are easier to stomach than unpleasant truths and grim killjoy conclusions. “The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means,” Jeremiah reminds us (5:31), but “my people love to have it so.” Which leads him painfully to the rhetorical question of “what will you do afterward?”