ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Disengagement Realities 18.8.05

Disengagement Realities

18 August 2005

By Yisrael Ne'eman

In Israel it appears rabbinical authority will finally be forced to bow to that of the state. With all the pain of the Gaza Disengagement the police and army are following orders given to them by their commanders and not adhering to the exhortations of the anti-Disengagement activists and Gush Katif residents who demand of them to refuse to evacuate Jews from “the Land of Israel”. The rabbis and Yesha (Judea and Samaria Council) leadership are now going through the motions of opposition, knowing full well the battle is lost.

A small minority of residents and especially those teen activists who arrived illegally in Gaza during the past few weeks continue to taunt the soldiers and police, calling the “an expulsion army” and even using the term “Nazi”. This is the uncharacteristic impression received by anyone dependent on the foreign press. The exemplary behavior by those losing their homes and memories after decades of pioneering and raising their families under terribly difficult conditions enjoys little coverage. Families and entire towns are in mourning. At government urgings from the 1970s onward they went to develop the sand hills of Gaza and are now being torn from their roots. Their grief is almost beyond description. Yet so far, very little violence has ensued and if it has, for the most part it is led by the outsiders.

With religious soldiers serving alongside the secular, orders are being carried out in the most humane way possible. At prayer time, both the residents of Gush Katif and religious soldiers worship together. There will be no civil war and so far no civil conflict either. Up until now the army and police have done a brilliant job in defusing the most tense of all situations. Settler strongholds such as Neve Dekalim, Kfar Darom and Shirat HaYam still await evacuation and may prove more difficult. In the end the job will be done but it will take years for the wounds on both sides to heal, if ever.

What has been forgotten here just for a moment is the political short sightedness at best and cynicism at worst. Although the first settlements were originally established by the Labor Party, the vast majority of Jewish residents in Gaza arrived from the late 1970s onwards at the behest of the Likud, the right wing parties and National Religious Party. This was after PM Menachem Begin signed the Framework for Peace in the Middle East (1979), inclusive of the five year transition period autonomy accords for the Palestinians. Afterwards there was to be a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. Could Begin, then Agriculture Minister (and settlement Tzar) Ariel Sharon and the Likud/NRP led government truly have believed the day of reckoning would never arrive? Such blindness? None saw the demographic explosion in Gaza? The discussion only commenced in earnest with the Oslo Accords negotiated by Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1993.

Unfortunately the settlers became bargaining chips in the triangular negotiations between Israel, the American broker and the Palestinians. The settlement ideologies and continuing youthful activists on the one side and the youth serving in the army, border police and civilian police force on the other are the victims of the failure of long range policy development and implementation. The mature settlement leadership including former MKs Hanan Porat, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, present MKs Tzvi Hendal and Effi Eitam, former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira, Mordechai Eliahu and Ovadia Yosef, along with their colleagues continually stroked the flames of illusion and Godly intervention to halt “the evil decree” of Disengagement.

What could have turned into a catastrophe is being skillfully avoided by the calm persuasion and evacuation by the security forces and some of those mentioned above and certain Yesha leaders such as Bentzi Leiberman. Furthermore, despite all its seeming contradictions, only a Likud led government with Ariel Sharon at the helm could manage a full withdrawal from Gaza. A Labor led government could only have been crushed by a right wing Likud led opposition.

Although only half way through, Israeli society is holding up well under the trauma.

As everyone knows, Major Elliot Chodoff is with the IDF in Gaza helping to facilitate a compassionate Disengagement. He was joined there this week by Captain Mike Cohen, a colleague of ours and guest writer in these columns. In conversations they have both related some extremely trying moments in the past few days and weeks. Hopefully, next week they will be able to post articles relating to their Gaza experiences.