Even if it looks like "the last moment", I feel the need to raise some disturbing questions about Sharon's so-called "Disengagement Plan".
The introduction to the "Evacuation / Compensation Law" states that the unilateral withdrawal will lead Israel to "a better reality in terms of security, foreign relations, economics and demography". Many experts have already questioned each of these aspects.
Arab public opinion polls show that most Palestinians believe that terrorism is the force that has driven Israel to retreat. Many security experts, including former IDF Chief of Staff Ya'alon, hold that rewarding terror is bound to damage the war against terror, both in Israel and globally. The withdrawal will allow terrorists to fire Kassam Rockets on most Israeli major cities. Withdrawing from the Egyptian-Israeli border will allow a massive flow of weapons into Gaza, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that could limit IDF operations against terrorists. Moreover, Sharon's consent to allow Egyptian troops into Gaza will end the demilitarisation of the Sinai desert and eliminate the strategic achievement of the 1979 Peace Treaty. It will bring the threat of a regular army within range of Tel Aviv. In addition, the bitter internal dispute splits the nation and damages our national unity and strength. Indeed, Sharon's aides say that these experts are wrong.
But what if they are right?
President Bush has already denied Sharon's claim that the US has pledged to support Israel's demand to annex the main settlement blocks in future negotiations, in return for evacuating Gaza. Other countries have already stepped up their pressure on Israel to evacuate more territories. Sharon's plan has set a dangerous precedent where Israel gives Land For Nothing! In return, Israel is taking more criticism, not less. Of course, I may be wrong and the Gaza pullout will turn Israel into the world's darling.
But what if I am right?
Relocating thousands of civilians and re-deploying the IDF will cost many more billions than the government admits. Those who accused the settlers for taking resources from the poor, currently accept calmly the huge cost of destruction, while the poor get poorer. Are they willing to pay any price to destroy their political rivals? Moreover, the plan will destroy a large productive sector and damage Israeli exports. Top economic experts warn that these steps will burden Israel's economy for decades! Sharon claims that his plan will encourage foreign investments.
But what if he is wrong?
Geography & Demography
Most of Gaza's 1.2 million Palestinians have been ruled by the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo agreements. Gaza is not under occupation! The Katif Block is closer to Israel's western Negev than to Gaza City, and is surrounded only by the 150,000 Arabs of Khan Yunis and Rafah (see map). Destroying Katif will make no demographic difference! Even if Israel annexes the Katif region, its demographic balance will not change much (see alternative plan).
Sharon is simply twisting the facts!
Separation, Peace & Reconciliation?
Clearly, Sharon's plan will damage the chances for true peace. Separation is a repulsive idea that smells of hostility and racial segregation. Unilateral steps are acts of aggression, not reconciliation! In the case of Katif, the aggression will hurt both Jews and Arabs. Moreover, the plan will not create any separation. Gaza will remain autonomous, as it has been for the last decade, but will also stay dependent on Israeli supplies of water, electricity and other essentials. Sharon plans to imprison the people of Gaza in a vast ghetto, surrounded by troops on all sides, unless the IDF withdraws from the Egyptian border and risks our security interests.
Sharon knows that his plan cannot bring peace!
The idea that peace requires an ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab territories is totally immoral and illegal. If Israel can accept 1.3 million Arabs (20% of its citizens), why should the Arabs reject a tiny Israeli minority in their homeland? True reconciliation must mean that both sides accept each other's presence in this country. The Arab demand to evacuate all Jews from the territories is based on their genocidal claim against Israel's right to exist!
Does Sharon accept a Judenrein policy?
Sharon's plan will not break the current deadlock in the peace process. What we need is a truly new alternative. The partition concept has dominated our region since the 1930's and produced only wars and bloodshed. Yet, there are other alternatives, such as the ones we present in HopeWays' Peace Voices section.
Have we learned nothing from the Oslo Fiasco?
Sharon's conduct presents grave dangers to Israel's democracy. A true democracy is the rule of the 'demos', the body of citizens. Our last democratic elections produced a huge majority that voted against the unilateral withdrawal proposed on a much smaller scale by the Labour Party. The same result was shown in all democratic votes conducted within Sharon's Likud party. Sharon betrayed his voters and secured an artificial Knesset majority through questionable tactics. He is moving forward against the democratic majority!
Besides, Liberal Democracies protect the rights of individuals and minorities against majority decisions. Uprooting law-abiding citizens on ethnic grounds is hardly a legitimate majority decision in a true democracy. Sharon's undemocratic conduct continues in the current persecution of his opponents.
How can we restore democracy after this crisis?
A Jewish State
The public must be warned that Sharon's racist, anti-Semitic and undemocratic scheme may well be used in the future against the Arabs. The very same law, eagerly supported by the Left, the media and the Supreme Court, may serve to deport thousands of Arabs!
Is their law intended only against Jews?
The process of legislation and implementation has been chaotic and heartless. Just like in Yamit 1982, the evacuated people are likely to suffer horrendous traumas and tragedies. The ridiculous "compensation" that they are offered amounts to daylight robbery.
Do you want to have a regime that has no compassion for its citizens?
Both Palestinian and Jewish refugees from Arab countries must find a peaceful, realistic solution. Obviously, Sharon's intention to turn thousands of civilians into new refugees will only add another wrong to the old ones. Turning people into refugees is horrific enough in wartime, but a calculated government plan to destroy its own citizens amounts to utter barbarity.
What will you do if they drive you out of your own home?
Morality & Politics
The Jews of Katif and Northern Samaria are law abiding, loyal citizens. Their villages were built on barren hills and arid desert dunes, with the full legal approval of the authorities. What are these honest people being punished for?
Some would say that the whole world agrees that the settlements are illegal. The fact that this assertion is widespread is more alarming than convincing. Since 1967, all Israeli governments have rejected the claim that the 4th Geneva Convention applies to Gaza and the West Bank. International law defines 'occupied territories' as lands taken from another legal sovereign owner. Yet, the West Bank and Gaza were occupied illegally by Egypt and Jordan in 1948. Israel took them in 1967 through a legally justified war of self-defence and has since administered them in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 242 and international law. Thus, Gaza and the West Bank are disputed territories, and the Jewish settlements are perfectly legal. Sharon must understand that accepting the false illegality claim would lead to the deportation of nearly 500,000 Jews from all "occupied" territories, including East Jerusalem.
Does anyone think that Israel could survive this scenario?
It seems that Sharon's inhumane policy is beginning to lose public support. This may be a golden opportunity for the public to change the quality of our Jewish Democracy. The struggle must be non-violent! Any violence can only push Sharon even farther away from democratic norms. Israelis must insist on replacing this administration with faithful representatives who would serve the true will and needs of the people. Let us not miss this opportunity to return to our true democratic principles and Jewish values!
It may not sound politically correct, but for many Israelis the real hope is still based on tradition and faith. We have come to this particular land because we believe that it was promised to Israel by God, who created Heaven and Earth. Many of us believe that no one, be it Roman, Palestinian or even a Jew, has the right to expel Jews from their homes in the Promised Land. Indeed, I respect other people's human rights, support true democracy and seek ways to make peace with all humankind. Yet, I simply cannot offer peace by defying my Maker's command.
Let us not lose the faith and hope that have united us for so many centuries! Let us continue our long journey toward a bright era of kindness, justice and everlasting peace.
Shall we rise to the challenge?
Ehud Tokatly, 22/June/2005