ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Abandoning the Disengaged

Abandoning the Disengaged

29 March 2006

by Yisrael Ne’eman

With the Israeli elections behind us most commentators are discussing the move to the practical center, whether it be Labor, Kadima, Avigdor Leiberman’s Yisrael Beitainu or even the big loser Likud. But the trend is not new, it began with Ariel Sharon’s Likud victory (38 seats) and the surprise Shinui showing (15 seats) in the winter of 2003.

While other issues need to be addressed a truly neglected question concerns what happened to the settler movement as represented by the National Religious Party and the National Union faction (9seats) and why the Israeli public and body politic is disengaging from this past summer’s evacuees? Why are they such a non-issue?

Almost the entire political spectrum now rejects the Greater Land of Israel ideology in favor of a division of the Land of Israel, the point being to completely separate Israel from the Palestinians. But beyond the balloting lurks a much more painful continuing trauma. Although scenes from the Amona violence were just a couple of months ago, very few seem to care. Most likely the Knesset committee of investigation will even be cancelled since Kadima won the elections and can be expected to form a coalition with Labor (and another couple of factions). But Amona was empty houses.

The evacuees from Gaza and northern Samaria were largely ignored by the average Israeli during the elections. Only the NRP/NU campaign was interested in the issue and they dropped from 10 seats in the previous Knesset to 9 in the present voting. Here there is a moral and ethical failure. The vast majority dwell in temporary residences, have not found permanent work and still suffer from completely dislocated lives. Yet it barely interests anyone. Once seen as the pioneering ideological spearhead of the Right and respected by most for their commitment and determination they find themselves disinherited orphans even by their former right of center and ultra-orthodox allies. They get lip service at best.

Being pragmatic is fine, but it should not come at the price of not being one’s “brother’s keeper”. This election had a serious domestic agenda; from pensions to health and day care to minimum wage, unemployment and social services. Why should the settler evacuees be left out? They are definitely in need of as much help as anyone else. True, they are viewed as having exploited the system for many years, but they should not be treated as second rate.

Everyone is responsible. Evacuating Gaza and northern Samaria were the correct steps but that does not absolve the government and state of the responsibility to get everyone reintegrated into society in every way possible. Acting PM Ehud Olmert is committed to further withdrawals with the resulting tens of thousands more internal “refugees.” It may be the necessary policy but no implementation should take place until an economic “day after” program is devised, funded, up and running.

This summer’s evacuees are the “Great Forgotten”. They lost their homes, their jobs, their societies and although they are known to have a very powerful will and belief in God – this too has been shaken. Today, many question not only the ideology but the rabbinical and religious frameworks that had been a “given” for so long.

Israeli society is far from passing the test when it comes to compassion and the need to draw the settlers back into the mainstream. The disengagements can be justified, abandoning one’s brethren cannot. Despite the fact that the NRP/NU will sit in the opposition that will be no reason not to address the pain suffered by their supporters. Democracy is not only about the rule of the majority; but must be equally concerned with addressing the needs and affirming the rights of the minority.