ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Settlement Sacrifice 1.9.05

Settlement Sacrifice

1 September 2005

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Generals sacrifice soldiers, politicians sacrifice civilians. Armies are expected to win wars while state leaders are expected to “win the peace.” Both are constrained in what they do in order to remain in power. They know they are replaceable. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon has held both roles and knows the game intimately. Like all good generals he has unwillingly but determinedly sent soldiers to their deaths in order to win his battles. Likewise, one aspect of Sharon’s political being is to achieve conflict resolution with the Arab world, especially the Palestinians. Here Israeli civilians will pay the price, or to be more exact, many of those who live in settlements across the 1967 borders. Similar to the army, they were sent forward in the front lines and in the end some will be sacrificed to achieve the overall objective of “peace”. The vast majority are expected to hold the line and survive. To be exact, the demographic battle lines are drawn and those on “this side of the fence” will remain in Israel.

So far his settlement sacrifice is paying off – for everyone except those forced to move and those given the orders to evacuate them. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s most trusted cabinet minister and intelligence expert, Gen. Omar Sulieman just met with Sharon as relations with Cairo are warming up considerably. King Abdullah II of Jordan is planning a visit to Israel, or so it is said, and in a surprising move, Pakistan is preparing to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Due to the perceived relative quiet in Israel during 2005 (yes, there were 3 major bombings including the attempt at the Beersheva bus station this past week) and economic reforms, foreign investment is up and projected economic growth has gone from an estimate of 3.5 to 5% based on statistics published in August. It is said investors are showing even more confidence after the relatively smooth Disengagement.

But the PM’s battle for peace is far from over. Within the next two weeks the IDF will fully withdraw from the Philadelphi line dividing Sinai from Gaza. Egypt will take on responsibility for halting the Palestinian tunneling to bring in weapons, ammunition and terrorists. Until now Mubarak’s policies proved a complete security failure while he acted as an accomplice to terrorism, yet Sharon, at the behest of Washington, is willing to endanger more “pawns” in the form of security for Israelis living just across the Gaza border who may be pounded by Palestinian terrorist rocket fire should the Egyptians fail in their mission.

Additional Jewish settlements in the heavily Arab populated Judea and Samaria (West Bank) hill region will be plowed under in the future in order to obtain further diplomatic and economic gain. The question will be “Where to draw the Line?” When will the PM tell Washington, Europe, the Arabs and Palestinians that he can go no further without seriously shredding Israel’s social and (yes) political cohesion – at the Ariel salient? At Karnei Shomron?

It seems very likely those who lost their homes saved the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and those towns just across the 1967 lines. Here the Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) leadership, both political and rabbinical, read the map correctly – they led the orange wave of protest towards the red lines dividing between civil disobedience and revolt, stopping short of the later. Sharon will use their obstinacy to harden his bargaining position just like he used their settlement ideology to further his own position and force any withdrawal and settlement removal to be extremely costly at the bargaining table. And not necessarily with the Palestinians, but rather with the US and the EU and even with those like Mubarak who need the good graces (billions of dollars) from the West to survive.

Soldiers sacrificed at the front do not return. The Gaza and northern Samaria residents are with us and with their fortitude can be expected to continue in their ideological epic of nation building despite their personal losses and dislocation.

Sharon for his part can be expected to continue playing the games of generals, politicians and statesmen but within the boundaries of remaining in power.