Ariel, Boim and Moyal Face Off at Expulsion Session

Disengagement-supporter Minister Ze'ev Boim faced questions and strong criticism at a Jerusalem Conference session.

Hillel Fendel,

Disengagement-supporter Minister Ze'ev Boim faced questions and strong criticism from the audience and fellow panel members at a Jerusalem Conference session.

Panel moderator MK Uri Ariel (National Union) introduced the topic of the session - the Disengagement and Unilateral Withdrawals - by stating:

"The Disengagement [from Gush Katif and northern Shomron in the summer of 2005] was not just another withdrawal. It was something that changed our society in a most fundamental manner... There has been somewhat of a consensus that it was a mistake - even in the words of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that his 'convergence' plan is in deep freeze. Unbelievably, Minister Rafi Eitan (Pensioners) said that he sees that there is no partner on the Palestinian side for us to talk with, and therefore we will have to withdraw unilaterally. In response, MK Michael Nudelman of Kadima said, 'No, sir, I have learned my lesson; no more unilateral withdrawals.' ... GSS (Shabak) head Yuval Diskin said that in the year after the Disengagement, 31 tons of explosives had been smuggled into Gaza - six times more than the previous record high..."

The focus of attention at the session was Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, one of several ex-Likudniks who "rebelled" against the traditional Land of Israel party line in 2004-5 and supported the Disengagement. He was rewarded by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a promise of a Cabinet ministerial portfolio - a promise that remained unfulfilled (due to Knesset opposition) until after Sharon fell into a coma and Olmert took his place as Prime Minister and head of the newly-formed Kadima party. Olmert appointed Boim as Minister of Housing and Agriculture in Jan. 2006, two months before the national elections, after the Likud ministers resigned.

Boim was at first greeted by the Conference audience with a measure of admiration for having agreed to face an audience that largely opposed his positions during the Disengagement period. (This, as opposed to Minister Meir Sheetrit, who was scheduled to appear at the session; at the last moment, his press spokesman informed MK Ariel that because of "unexpected work-related matters at the Knesset," Sheetrit would not be able to attend.) As the session proceeded, however, Boim was subjected to a measure of heckling for his stance.

Boim: I Supported Disengagement
Boim said openly, "I supported the Disengagement, because I felt that it was the right thing to do - even though I had some question marks, which became strengthened following the implementation [of the expulsion]... We wanted a country with a strong Jewish majority... It is true that we cannot control an area [in terms of intelligence and the like] if we are not physically there - but the question was whether Israeli society was willing to remain there, as it once was..."

Minister Boim praised Israel for "carrying out the Disengagement in an appropriate manner - meaning that there was no civil war..." He had criticism of the decision to abandon the Philadelphi Route and control of what is now the Egypt-Gaza border - but mainly of the treatment of the expelled residents in not finding housing, employment or monetary solutions for them: "As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy wrote in HaKuzari regarding why the Jews do not try to move to the Land of Israel, 'you have found our badge of disgrace.' There simply was not enough generosity on the part of the Knesset and the government. The uprooting was successful, if I can use that term, but the re-planting was not."

One member of the audience accused Boim and other Likud members of breaking their election promises to the voters regarding a withdrawal from Gaza. Boim said, "True, the promises were made, but they were made under a certain set of circumstances. When these changed, I did not see myself bound by my promises... As far as resigning - there was only one 'righteous man in Sdom' [probably referring to Uzi Landau - ed.] who resigned..."
Moyal said that as far as the State was concerned, there could very easily have been a civil war.

IDF General: IDF Buried Three Principles
Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal, who retired last year after serving as IDF Ground Forces Commander, said that as a result of the Disengagement, "the IDF had buried three fundamental principles: Victory; Honor; and Love of the People and Land... I cannot understand what brings a country to give up, on its own accord, a part of its land. I was in China and spoke with the Chief of Staff there - in a giant room four times bigger than this hall, with just the two of us and our two interpreters - and he told me about a border dispute with India regarding an area of maybe 20 square kilometers, and he said, 'And I'm not planning to give them even one inch!' - and don't forget how big China is!"

Ron-Tal, a former resident of the Yesha community of Ofrah, told the Jerusalem Conference last year that when he was faced with the choice of either resigning from the army or carrying out Disengagement orders, he deliberated, but chose the latter.

B'Sheva Editor: Media Has Not Repented
Emanuel Shilo, the editor of the weekly newspaper and Conference-sponsor B'Sheva, spoke about the media. He noted that there have been journalists "here and there" who have confessed to making mistakes during the Disengagement. "For instance," he said, "[well-known show host] Ilana Dayan said that the media had not asked the right questions while Sharon was promoting his plan." In general, however, "the media has not changed its ways and is still in the same place it was last year... For instance, respected journalist Akiva Eldar of Haaretz openly wrote recently that he is willing to offer Olmert a general pardon for all the offenses of which he is charged, in exchange for further withdrawals and concessions to the Palestinian Authority... In short, I see no change in the Israeli media, and the only solution is to create competition - not only in newspapers and internet, but also in radio and television."

Sderot Mayor Cites "Holy Triangle"
Mayor Eli Moyal of Sderot said simply, "We have lost our way. We have forgotten why we are here. As a secular Jew who does not keep all the commandments, I say that it is impossible to even hope to dismantle the holy triangle of the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the Land of Israel... Our leadership is weak, but our nation is strong, and better days are yet to come." He spoke of the thousands of Kassam rockets that had rained down on Sderot in the past six years, and the unfulfilled promises by various government leaders to "rock Gaza" if the Kassams do not stop.

Moyal responded sharply to Minister Boim's words that during the Disengagement, "civil war had been prevented." Moyal said that as far as the State was concerned, there could very easily have been a civil war: "We saw the long lines of soldiers standing there, and we saw that they were ready for civil war. What prevented the war was just us, the people, and our responsibility." Boim did not take this lying down, accusing Moyal of saying what his audience wanted to hear: "There were Kassams in Sderot before the Disengagement, and the Kassams in Sderot are not connected with the Disengagement... In addition, Sderot has received much government aid..."

Ariel Blames Sharon
MK Ariel, who chaired the session calmly and with good humor, finally abandoned his restraint in his concluding remarks and said: "The unilateral disengagement, it is now unambiguously clear, was the result of a one-person [Ariel Sharon] and one-family scheme, and this is clearly written in our national chronicles. It is well-known. The editor of Haaretz, David Landau, wrote straight out, 'We knew of the corrupt acts [of Ariel Sharon], but we didn't publicize them because there was a bigger corruption - that of the Jewish presence in Gush Katif.'"

Ariel continued, "We want to look forward, but whoever doesn't do a reckoning of his past sins, will apparently not be able to correct them... Regarding the reparations [that are supposed to be paid to the uprooted residents], it simply cannot be that after a year and a half, the government continues to do nothing but 'explain.' There's a known rule that one either succeeds, or he explains. The government has done nothing about the expellees but explain; there have been no governmental sessions regarding what has been done for the expellees. It is simply unacceptable, and cannot continue for even one more day..."

Warning of the dangers of the media, MK Ariel said, "With Akiva Eldar offering Olmert a general pardon in exchange for continued retreats - this just shows that there is no morality in the media. Most of the reporters have absolutely no obligation to any ethics, but rather report and interpret exactly as they want. If we as a society do not find the way to protect ourselves from this, we are liable to deteriorate greatly... But there is still great hope, and that is the combination of the Torah-Nation-Land, and also our youth: I was just at the wedding of the daughter of Gush Katif's Rabbi Kaminetzky, and at another wedding of the son of Yoel Tzur of Beit El, who lost his son and wife to terrorists ten years ago, and I saw that nothing can overcome them. With G-d's help, we will succeed!"