Bible Commentator

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Rabbi Moshe Reiss

Why the Disengagement?


Why Did Sharon called the ‘father’ of the settlements, decided on disengaging from Gaza.


The political benefits are doubtful and problematic, certainly for Sharon: leaving Gaza is likely to increase rather than decrease pressures on Israel to withdraw from additional territories--witness the international community's insistence on viewing disengagement as a stage in the roadmap; and, by definition, there will be no Palestinian quid pro quo for Israeli’s unilateral gesture. Sharon was never a Messianic in favor of the Greater Israel thesis; he was a nationalist Zionist and a General interested n Israel’s security – he still is both. Keeping the settlements in Gaza has not added to Israel’s security.


The disengagement has some security gains: it shortens and rationalizes the defensive lines, no longer requires protecting the Gaza settlements which have been staggering in terms of treasure as well as lives; 100 soldiers died protecting the Gaza settlers.  The settlers are now out of harms way. They were nothing more than hostages to the Palestinian terrorists. The ‘costs’ are balanced by projecting, in the eyes of Palestinian militants, weakness by withdrawing and thereby encouraging a new round of terrorism in the West Bank. The same was said of the Lebanese disengagement, but it did not occur. The Hizbollah attacks of Northern Israel have largely stopped. There are economic benefits, too: disengagement is good for Israel's economy. This is partly based on it seeming as being part of a peace process and is followed by tranquility--neither of which is a sure bet.


If Israel did not disengage at some point within the next few years there will be more Muslims that Jews in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  According to Professor Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University given the number of non Jewish Russians and foreign workers the population of Jews between the river and the sea is 49.3%; other estimates are 50.3%  (Haaretz, Aug. 11). The strategy of the Gaza disengagement is to reduce by 1.3 million fewer Palestinians under direct or indirect Israeli rule.  “It will stem our slide down the slippery slope toward the South Africanization of the conflict with the Palestinians. The demographic rationale overshadows all the other reasons, many of them doubtful, for disengagement, and justifies the move regardless of the possible drawbacks” (Bitterlemons July 4).


Israel cannot remain Jewish and a democratic state ruling a significant number of Arabs let alone a majority of non-Jews. Either Israel opts for a two state solution or eventually there will be a bi-national state established with a Jewish minority. The disengagement is a major step towards a two state solution.


The settlers who are primarily Messianic Zionists do not accept that position. Neither do some members of the Palestinian Authority. Minster of Planning, Ghassan Khatib, has stated “that after all a ‘human being is a human being regardless of his religion of race”. He favors a bi-national state.   


The Israel disengagement from Gaza provides an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity for the Palestinians is the ability to rule themselves in Gaza without Israeli interference or control. The danger lies if chaos ensues and terrorism into Israel continues.


Upon completion of the disengagement Israel will face the question of what to do next. In view of the government's current political composition it is likely there will be several opposing stances on the subject. Those who objected to the disengagement will demand that nothing further be done at least until Israeli trauma is reconciled. This would be consistent with Dov Weinglass (senior advisor to Sharon) statement that “The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians;” a rigorous maintenance of the status quo. Continuing he said “The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president's formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians." Formaldehyde is as we all know is a liquid in which dead bodies are preserved.


On the other hand the Labor Party, the coalition partner as well as the International community will demand the renewal of peace process with the Palestinians, based on the roadmap.


What will Sharon do? The security wall will result in 50-60,000 Jewish Israeli on the wrong side of the wall. Some of the extremists like in Gaza will wish to remain; but the result seems obvious. The wall is creating a short term border, those of the wrong side will soon enough realize their lives and their children’s are in danger. What the Gaza disengagement proved is that the government will make decisions based on what the security that the majority decides.


While polls tells us that Benjamin Netanyahu will become the next leader of the Likud another tells us that 60-70% of the people backed the disengagement and 89% felt the security forces had handled it well. Will Sharon try to form a grand coalition with Peres and Labor and with Lapid and Shinui? Too much of the short term (six months) – primary dates in both the Likud and Labour parties - will be based on domestic politics. And then we have the Palestinian elections in January 2006.


The State of Israel proved that it could reverse an error. What the disengagement proved is that the State of Israel as hoped for by the original Zionists can be a normal state.


To paraphrase Elie Wiesel “Gaza is one chapter in a book entitled ‘Peace’.”