[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]
Gaza - Israel's Big Mistake
By acting on our own, we are insulting the very people we are supposed to help. By evacuating Jews from Gaza, we are creating more chaos than security. Whether leaving Gaza is right or wrong, it must be fully coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. To do otherwise is demeaning and will cause more bloodshed.
By evacuating Jews from Gaza, we justify Ethnic Cleansing. A Gaza free of Jews is no different from an Israel free of Arabs. If you agree to the Gaza disengagement, you must support Kahana's plan to transfer Arabs from Israel.
No human being should ever be forced out of his / her home. The test of peace is whether Jew and Arab can live together side by side, in Gaza, the West Bank and anywhere else. Peace means that I can shop in Nablus as easily and safely as my Arab neighbors shop in Haifa.
The argument that Jews must be removed from Gaza because Arabs outnumber Jews, is ridiculous from the outset. How can 8,000 Jews be any threat to 1.2 million Arabs? Yet, by agreeing to move Jews from Gaza, we may justify the demand to remove all Jews from the Galilee and the Negev, where Arabs outnumber Jews. The State of Israel will soon be reduced to a narrow strip between Gedera and Hadera.
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff produced a White Paper in 1967, which outlined Israel's minimal defensive needs. It was supposed to guide the peace process with the Arabs. In an age of much less sophistication, the Joint Chiefs insisted that Israel maintained military control of the Gaza Strip, the Jordan rift, the Golan Heights and the area around Jerusalem. Sharon's plan envisions the Egyptian army along the border between Gaza and Egypt. In addition, Egypt has requested to place thousands of Egyptian soldiers along the border from Gaza to Eilat. It doesn't take a genius to see the future: Some terror group attacks Israel from Gaza. Israel wants to respond. Egypt declares that such an action is an attack on Egypt. And we're back to another Israeli - Egyptian War. To avoid future wars, Israel must maintain security along the borders of the Gaza Strip for years to come.
"Divided We Fall"
Any issue that divides our people is a victory for our enemies. The last general election was won by Sharon on the basis of no unilateral withdrawals and a tough stand against terror. It's one thing to change one's mind on an issue, quite another to adopt a policy that was totally rejected by the voters. A national referendum should be called to decide this matter. The Gaza settlers agreed to abide by such referendum. Currently, no one knows where the majority lies.
Secular - Religious Divide
Israel has never been successful in defining itself, either as a secular democratic nation, or as a Jewish State. A Constitutional Conference, which was called for in 1948 has never met, and we are still divided over many issues such as military service of yeshiva students, Kashrut and Shabbat observance. It is unfortunate that most of the Gaza settlers are religious Zionists. Although successive governments approved the settlements in Gaza for over 30 years, the settlers' rivals are usually "anti-religious". If I could be Education Minister, I would close every high school, build new air conditioned educational campuses and have all Israelis go to high school together. First floor, kosher dining room. Second floor, secular studies. Third floor, art, music, special subjects. Fourth floor, Yeshiva religious studies. Let all our kids experience every type of Jew in our country. We should reject separate schools that divide our society.
The Gaza evacuation plan will put a divide between religious and secular Israelis for many years to come. We need to spend our time, effort and money on bringing understanding between the different sectors of Israeli life.
The Gaza saga has exposed the realization that we are not a nation of good guys and bad guys. However, we do have corruption in every element of the political process. Ministers are fired and replaced improperly. Budgets contain bribes to political parties. Supreme Court Judges are selected by the very judges they are supposed to replace. This system makes it virtually impossible to be clean or honest, since it has no checks and balances.
The system is corrupt beyond repair. It must be replaced with a system of direct elections: 60 election districts returning two representatives to the Knesset every two years.
Focusing only on peace, peace, and peace, we have ignored greater problems, including education, environment, social unrest, jobs and the economy. And still we have no peace. Israel must renew itself, end its internal divisions and become united and strong. Only then can we face those who wish to eliminate the Jewish State.
We are challenged by a Palestinian Authority, which cares nothing for human rights, women's rights, or civil rights. It enforces a law against Jewish land ownership and gives grants to families of homicide bombers. The PA is allied to the Islamic militants. We must defeat them for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike. Surrender of Gaza settlements sends a message to all Arabs that Terror Works and that Western Democracy can be defeated.
For the sake of a billion moderate Muslims, we must prevail.
Michael J. Stern, 21/July/2005