An Alternative To "Disengagement"

By Asher Shla'in

The "Disengagement Plan" includes the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and a part of the West Bank, and presumably the completion of the separation fence between the area ruled by Israel and the rest of the country. Its planners claim that it is no longer possible to continue the present situation. They seem to have suddenly remembered that it makes no sense to rule over millions of non-Jews.

Indeed, the plan's various opponents have a vision of a brighter future without any Israeli evacuation - but they often fail to clarify this scenario. It is tempting, therefore, to embrace the Disengagement as a soothing illusion, especially when some prominent leaders express their support of the plan.

I would like to address this issue through an unorthodox approach, which may too seem as an unrealistic illusion, but in my view, it requires only actions that are essentially desirable and relatively safe. My approach would also eliminate the need to take steps that are irreversible, bitter, damaging - and evidently vicious.

The required activities should be taken primarily by "ordinary people" who would organize in line with this proposal, but at the same time, there is a role for Israel's authorities whose assistance is vital for facilitating the proposed civil action. The following proposition indeed places a serious burden on both.

Israeli activists, both Jews and Arabs, who wish to foster reconciliation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, should get together. They will seek an honest and courageous dialogue with Palestinian "ordinary people", preferably from the Gaza region at the first stage. The discourse will be held between participants who accept each other as valued human beings, and discuss real human needs and the ways to fulfil them. These needs will include identity and heritage, security and peace, recognition and dignity, livelihood, employment and welfare - and also truth and justice.

The Israelis should prepare themselves at a preliminary stage to operate within the parameters of the dialogue culture, perhaps by holding their own meetings. There is no need for a political or ideological consensus among them, beside a commitment to the dialogue at grassroots level with Palestinians who would be willing to participate.

Are there any Palestinians who would engage in this type of communication? In my opinion, there are many Palestinians who would want to bypass the groups in power, and have a direct dialogue with ordinary Israelis. Yet, it seems that this potential is unlikely to materialise, as long as the meetings may risk the safety of the Arab participants. When danger exists, the Arab who prefers peace, welfare and dignity to his current conditions and regime, cannot raise his voice. The Palestinians that appear in the public arena are only those who can afford to speak and act without worrying about their physical safety, which means that their messages are accepted or tolerated by the chiefs of terror.

This is where the assistance of Israel's authorities is required. The violent groups cannot be affected through dialogue - they chose a different path. Negotiating with them cannot be productive either, and will not yield results which Palestinians and Israelis can live with. The task that should be demanded from Israel's government is to provide the Palestinians with the freedom to express themselves publicly - in any direction they wish - and without fear.

Indeed, there is one element that I accept in the horrible Disengagement Plan, namely the doing without an agreement with the masters of terror, either Hamas or PLO. Yet, the result should not be to keep the Palestinians away from us, enclosing them under a terrorist authority. On the contrary!

Incidentally, I do not hold any higher view of future "pragmatic" leaders, who may furnish our authorities with some political convenience, in exchange for securing their own positions.

As mentioned above, those who conceived the "Disengagement", claim that we cannot rule over the Palestinian masses. At that, they receive the support of both foreign countries who care nothing for the welfare of the Palestinians, and of some elements in Israeli society that wish to keep the Palestinians as far away as they can from their sights and their daily lives. This approach is morally and humanely flawed, as well as politically and strategically unwise. It leaves millions under the control of policies that poison their culture and education, deprive their welfare and exacerbate their misery, multiply their victims and also turn them into an instrument of a permanent threat on Israel's existence.

In this matter, I recommend the article "The reign of the thugs" by the Palestinian human-rights activist, Bassam Eid.

I can present a simple question: Who do you prefer to rule over the Palestinians today - an Israeli administration, that will now (unlike in the past) take care of their human, economic and security needs - or the Hamas, Jihad and "Al-Aqsa Martyrs"? Yes, I understand what it entails, and I also realise, that civil inequality cannot last forever. Yet I think that we should first choose a way that can deliver us all from the severe human ordeal, which currently torments the Palestinians and actually the Israelis as well.

This requires an even more decisive action against the sources of terror - mainly the intra-Palestinian one. If the need arises, we should go back into the area, disarm the terrorists as far as possible, abolish the PLO's administrative and economic powers, and suppress all violence and incitement to violence.

It will be neither easy nor simple, requiring both moral and professional preparations of the armed forces. This move will demand much effort, and probably more casualties on both sides. It will also invite more international protests and pressures. But this is the right thing to do now - to correct our past mistakes, and to plan a new interim administration, which would allow for shaping a concept of the future that may be acceptable to all parties.

I can add more details - but I would welcome a discussion of these ideas.


Asher's Story: "Palistrael"

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