Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 5 children....
One of the enduring questions of the horrific "disengagement" program, implemented by Ariel Sharon and his accomplices, is why did Israel withdraw from the northern Gaza Strip. There was seemingly no reason for it. Even all of the known bad and poorly conceived reasons asserted for any withdrawal were lacking in this specific area. The established Jewish communities bordered the "green line" and provided a buffer to Ashkelon and farther up the coast. There was seemingly no strategic or demographic advantage whatsoever to the withdrawal. Additionally, this area borders the primary source of current rocket fire - as should have been easily anticipated because of its relative height and close proximity to Jewish cities and towns.
Recently there were reports in the media that the IDF has warned residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their houses and that many thousands of them have done so. This is an opportunity for Israel to achieve a victory - to move the border! This is a fitting punishment to Hamas and their cohorts for their continuous rocket fire over the past decade. Of course, we should continue to hunt all of those responsible for the rocket fire and make every effort to eliminate them - but that's not good enough! We need a tangible victory and moving the border of the northern Gaza Strip provides us with that. Certainly Hamas deserves a tangible defeat and a serious lesson learned! Shooting rockets on civilian population centers must have long-term consequences! What better consequence than a new civilian population center on land previously controlled by Hamas and used to shoot rockets!!!
Former residents of Gush Katif should be offered the first opportunity to settle in the regained territory. While not fully compensating for what happened in the "expulsion" by any stretch of the imagination, this would be a meaningful gesture by the Israeli Government in the process of atoning for past sins.
I have been advocating this idea to different audiences since the beginning of the most recent conflagration and have yet to hear any serious challenges against it. I remain surprised to not hear this idea emanating from anywhere else and have no explanation for it. (It could very well be that I'm simply not aware of others proposing something similar and/or challenges to it.)
Everyone knows that its only a matter of time before Hamas demands a ceasefire and our leaders capitulate. And its only a matter of slightly more time before they begin trying to shoot at us again. Avigdor Lieberman was recently reported to have joined others in advocating the re-conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, while I support the idea in theory, boisterous statements do not equal victory - moving the border does!
Old City, Jerusalem