Anyone who bought into the media's speculation that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was giving up Gaza in order "to strengthen Israel's hold on the West Bank" will be in for a rude surprise.
Just the other day, in a televised interview, Sharon said explicitly that not all of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will eventually remain under Israeli control.
In other words - he is already beginning to plan another round of expulsions, exile, and bulldozing.
As I suggest in the article below that I wrote for the Jerusalem Post, it is essential that the Right muster its energies, as well as some foresight, and begin to plan its strategy now for the struggles that lie ahead.
Only if we move assertively and confidently forward, following a clear game-plan and with faith in the justness of our cause, can we prevent the next round of retreat, withdrawals and defeat.
The Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2005
A Roadmap for the Right
By Michael Freund
Hardly a week has passed since Gush Katif was emptied of its Jewish residents, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is already promising more expulsions of Jews.
In a televised interview with Channel 10 broadcast Monday, Sharon made clear that he plans to uproot additional Jewish communities in the future. "Not all the settlements presently in Judea and Samaria will remain there," he said, adding that "the final map will be presented only at the last stage of negotiations."
So there you have it. Talks with the Palestinians have not even resumed and Sharon is already busy making concessions, effectively promising to dismantle further, as yet unnamed communities as part of a final deal.
As if this wasn't bad enough, Sharon has also done virtually nothing to counter the renewed terrorist onslaught launched by the Palestinians of late.
In just the past few days a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and killed a young Israeli yeshiva student in Jerusalem; an Israeli border policeman was stabbed in the throat in Hebron by a Palestinian attacker; two Kassam rockets were fired from northern Gaza at Sderot; firebombs were thrown at Israeli vehicles in Gush Etzion, and a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at Beersheba's bus station.
Thus far the government's response to this renewed wave of violence has been limited to verbal denunciations and a bit of finger-wagging, which are hardly likely to be taken very seriously by the gunmen of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
So not only is Sharon demonstrating weakness at the bargaining table, he is also projecting frailty on the military front, inviting still more violence and pressure in its wake.
This combination of weak knees and feeble muscle poses a grave danger to the country and to its national interests.
As Haifa University Professor Dan Schueftan recently pointed out to The New York Times, the way things are looking now, "The next stage of disengagement is inevitable... We are basically retreating slowly toward the fence."
More than ever, then, it is essential that the Right get its act together and find a way to save the country from the desperate, devious and dithering man who now runs it.
To be sure, the retreat from Gaza and northern Samaria was a terrible blow, but the perils that lie ahead may prove even more ominous. Israel is essentially slouching its way back to the pre-1967 Armistice Lines, which would endanger the state and its interests.
In order to prevent this, the Right must lick its wounds from the Gaza debacle and formulate a strategy aimed at forestalling any future retreats. The time to do so is now because, with a little foresight, we can and will prevent more Jews from losing their homes.
SUCH A strategy should encompass a number of key spheres: political, practical and ideological, and it should not be left in the hands of any one organization to implement. Rather, the various forces must combine their efforts and work in tandem to bring it about.
In the political realm, the number-one priority at this stage should be to remove Sharon from power. It is critical that he be punished politically for the Gaza retreat so other politicians will see there is a heavy price to be paid in terms of their careers for daring to expel Jews from their homes.
It is not enough merely to bring down the government. Rather, Sharon must be seen to suffer a stinging political rebuke, such that it will be obvious to all that the withdrawal led directly to his downfall.
Similarly, it is time for Israel's Right to adopt a modified form of one of the most successful tactics used to date by American Conservatives – the taxpayer protection pledge, which has been championed for some two decades by Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based lobbying group.
In the US, the idea is simple: force politicians to live up to their pre-election rhetoric by asking them to sign a short document in which they promise not to support new taxes once they are in office. This effectively binds the signatory, in writing, to live up to his word to the voters.
In America it has come to be known as the "No New Taxes" pledge, and it has proven immensely effective in compelling politicians to take a stand and stick with it. Over 1,200 state officeholders, and nearly 50% of the US Senate and House have signed on, and their adherence to the pledge is duly monitored and reported to the public.
HERE IN Israel, the Right could initiate a "No New Withdrawals" oath which would require politicians to solemnly declare that they will never agree to yield territory or uproot Jewish communities. Anyone refusing to sign, or violating the pledge, would then lose the support of right-wing voters, and would be branded a "pledge-breaker" for all to see.
On the practical front a major push must be made to get more people to settle in Jewish communities that could potentially be on the chopping block should Sharon have his way. Bolstering towns such as Shavei Shomron in Samaria, or Tekoa in Judea will make it harder for any future government to part with them, just as Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim have been taken off the table thanks to their sizable population growth.
Whether this means encouraging more Israelis to move there, or persuading American Jews to purchase homes in these places, it is crucial to shore up these communities and reinforce their numbers as soon as possible.
Finally, on the ideological front, the Right must not allow its failure to prevent the Gaza withdrawal to lead to despondency or despair. The protests on behalf of Gush Katif may not have achieved their ultimate aim of preventing the pullout, but they did tap into a strong and dynamic undercurrent of enthusiasm and love for the Land of Israel.
That energy must not be allowed to dissipate. It should be marshalled to prepare for the next stage of the struggle, before Israel's dangerous slide toward retreat truly does become a reality.