Former Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, who oversaw the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, paid a controversial visit to Gush Etzion Monday in his capacity as Transportation Minister in the current government.
Mofaz, invited by the Gush Etzion municipality, addressed a ceremony naming the intersection at Efrat’s northern entrance for the convoys that brought aid to the Jews of Gush Etzion and Jerusalem in the War of Independence.
Hundreds of people attended, but whistles, boos and shouts drowned out Mofaz's remarks. Activists had said beforehand that Mofaz would not be welcome in Gush Etzion due to his role in the Disengagement and involvement in plans to destroy Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in the future as well.
“For those who need a reminder: Sha'ul Mofaz was the one who prepared the entire army for the expulsion of our brothers from Gush Katif and northern Samaria.” So wrote Women in Green director and Efrat resident Nadia Matar to local activists, as well as to Gush Etzion Mayor Sha'ul Goldstein, a member of the Yesha Council that represents those communities.
Matar's letter continued, “[Mofaz] was one of the most active supporters of the expulsion…why was that criminal invited to come to a Gush Etzion ceremony? It is not only spitting in the face of our [expelled] brothers, but shows that we forgot and forgave the expulsion. It is giving legitimacy to the Kadima government that has only 3% support in the Israeli population at this time.”
Matar called upon protestors to attend the ceremony at 1 PM on Monday with pots, pans and whistles to drown out Mofaz’s speech.
Mayor Goldstein hastily responded to the email in a public release addressed to Matar. “I am not enthused by the political agenda of Mofaz,” Goldstein wrote, agreeing that Mofaz has taken part in a “crime that endangered and endangers Israel in the years to come…But, regardless of the above, we are still an inseparable part of the State of Israel and must continue to fix that which is perverted.”
Goldstein posited that the desired changes necessary in Israeli society to avoid further expulsion require meetings and visits by politicians like Sha'ul Mofaz. “Mofaz is Transportation Minister and we asked him for and received the refurbishing of the Efrat Junction. We are currently asking that he double the lanes leading to Jerusalem, along with other important requests…We are therefore honoring him in the context of his duties.”
The contractor-turned-mayor stressed that the strategy embraced by the Gush Etzion municipality is to try to bring as wide a public to visit the region, “in order to proudly display our values and creations.”
Addressing the planned protest, Goldstein said: “Demonstrating with whistles doesn’t do anything except for closing ears from hearing. I am not against protests, which are a part of democracy, but this protest only accomplishes the opposite of the goal – which is to succeed in entering hearts and minds.”
Matar and the local Action Committees, which have replaced the Yesha Council with regard to activism and protests, say they will carry out the protest as planned if Mofaz does not cancel his appearance. They sent a latter to Mofaz on the eve of the ceremony reading: “We wish to inform you that as minister of the expulsion, you are not welcome to Gush Etzion.
“As representatives of the Action Committees, representing hundreds of residents of Efrat, Gush Etzion, Kiryat Arba-Hevron, and Southern Har Hevron, we oppose your invitation to this ceremony…To invite you to this ceremony is not only to spit in the faces of our brothers and sisters from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, it is also an insult to the fighters for Gush Etzion who sacrificed their lives to hold on to the land that you so are so blithely ready to present as a gift to the grandchildren of their murderers.
“The fallen heroes of the Gush Etzion convoys would turn over in their graves knowing that the one chosen to honor them is the destroyer of Jewish Gaza and Northern Shomron, someone who continues to support handing over the Jewish heartland to the enemy, someone who supports building walls and roadblocks that will return Gush Etzion to the state of siege it suffered in 1948 – a state of strangulation, a state of being cut off from the rest of Israel, a state of the necessity for armored convoys.
“By participating in this ceremony, you will force us to prevent your receiving an ‘honored’ welcome…We hope that you will spare yourself and us the necessity of such a painful confrontation and decide not to come.”
The letter was signed by Datya Yizchaki (Efrat – formerly of Gush Katif), Timna Katz (Neve Daniel), Nadia Matar (Efrat), Chaim Makovsky (Neve Daniel), Yehudit Katzover (Kiryat Arba), and Anita Finklestein (Tekoa).
Click here for a video about the 1968 return to Gush Etzion.