Mon., February 28, 2005 Adar1 19, 5765
Language of Engagement in Disengagement
By Avraham Tal
Reprinted with permission from Haaretz ©
"This is a dark day. We have to accept the fact that we are heading for a split in the nation .... I hope we have the spiritual strength to face this reality, even if it costs human lives, and even if it costs my life - we will not allow the implementation of the evacuation." So said Pinchas Wallerstein, chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council and one of the leaders of the Yesha Council, in response to the government's approval last Sunday of the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.
Should these frightening remarks be taken as part of the psychological war meant to deter the decision-makers from going ahead with the evacuation, or as part meant to deter those who are meant to take part in the evacuation from doing so? Undoubtedly. Under the circumstances, with the passage of the Evacuation Compensation Law in the Knesset and the government decision to execute it, there should be no expectation that settler-movement leaders will use softer terms to conduct their struggle. The moment of decision is very close at hand and as far as they are concerned, they must make a last-ditch propaganda effort before the clash to try to avoid the worst.
But do they really mean what they say in their threats? Wallerstein's remarks promise nothing less than a life-and-death struggle. The rally of the extreme right, held last Thursday in the Jerusalem International Convention Center, made palpable the atmosphere that supports such a struggle. If the disengagement, as the spokesmen of the right are saying, "is bringing down a Holocaust on the nation of Israel," is it not their duty to do use every means to prevent that danger? A leaflet signed by one the rabbis said: "There are more weapons, ammunition and trained people in each of the settlements than there were in the hands of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto." Another leaflet included a halakhic ruling by rabbis, who said "the government has declared open war on the Holy One, Blessed be He." If after all this, and the shofar-blowing and the sitting on the ground as a sign of mourning, is it not possible that Wallerstein's promises will come true?
Yedioth Ahronoth published a report last week quoting a document presented by the police to the defense minister, summing up preparations for the evacuation of Gaza and the northern West Bank, detailing potential scenarios. The police are not saying that these scenarios are going to happen as described, but they do say that most of the residents of the settlements will not evacuate their homes of their own free will and that opposition can be expected. The scenarios range from passive to active resistance, to more extreme situations like shootings. It is a frightening document and even if only the "less heavy" scenarios take place, its authors anticipate violence and injuries on both the evacuees' and the evacuators' sides.
In light of the preparations being made in the settlements, as reflected in the statements articulated by their leaders, and the chances that the evacuation will be accompanied by violence, is Israeli society committed enough to go through such a trauma? The settlers deserve as fair a treatment as possible: recognition of their suffering and compensation for their damages. But the effort to use force (and in this case, passive resistance is a form of force) to foil decisions legally made by the Knesset and government is not among the settlers' rights. The state is authorized to impose the execution of the decision on them, but it is not obligated to enforce this as long as it makes the consequences unequivocally clear: On the day after the date determined for the evacuation, the decision to stay in their settlements will be the settlers' responsibility and theirs alone, and the state will have no obligation toward their well-being.
The idea that it is the state's duty to force citizens to return to the borders of their country against their will - and to that end, will have to "drag" them there physically - is nonsensical, and apparently unprecedented. When France abandoned Algeria, a date was set for the evacuation of the French settlers and when that date passed, the government's protection of them was lifted; their rights in Algeria were much more rooted and institutionalized than those of the settlers of Gaza and the northern West Bank (and the compensation they received upon returning home to France was very far from what is being offered to the settlers under the Evacuation Compensation Law).
Every soldier and policeman sent to deal with the evacuation of the settlers will be one less person among the forces protecting the security and the law and order of the country. Do the settlers have the right to endanger the personal security of millions of other citizens, especially in view of the possibility that the terror attacks might resume?
From the start, the disengagement was supposed to be unilateral. If an agreement had been reached with the Palestinian Authority, it presumably would have included an article specifying that the government of Israel would make sure to remove its citizens from the evacuated areas. But it turns out that the Palestinians are not showing up at the negotiations and are not showing any signs of being interested in doing so, says Giora Eiland, the head of the National Security Council.
The police document cited here was written under the assumption that there will not be such an agreement. But even if there is one, it would be best if it did not include any commitment beyond the promise to invite the settlers to return home, while allowing for the appropriate arrangements for their absorption - and to make clear that beyond that, their well-being is their responsibility.