'We Believe it’ll Happen – We’ll Return to Gush Katif'
For many of the Gush Katif expellees the option of returning to the region from which they were uprooted nine years ago is more than just a dream. The days of Operation Protective Edge have strengthened the feeling that the whole country is coming to terms with the need to return to the region which has been turned into a base from which Hamas has been launching rockets and missiles into the Israeli home front.
In a special interview marking 9 years since the uprooting, we spoke to Lior Kalfa, a leader of the Gush Katif settlers and former chairman of the Jewish communities there in the days following the uprooting, who today works as the principal of Beit Moriah in Be’er Sheva. He told us of his hope and anticipation, which many have dismissed as unrealistic and even delusional.
Kalfa begins by clarifying that the wish and dream to return to Gush Katif has been substantially elevated during the recent war. He is convinced that the third counterterrorism operation completed in the Gaza strip is not the last and as he claims, “today everyone realizes that there is no security without settlement.”
Kalfa calls for a return to the 'five fingers' plan set forth by the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who believed in a Jewish settlement plan which would cross the strip from east to west.
“Israel needs to realize that Zionism and security are brought by settlements, in the Negev, in Judea and Shomron, in the Gaza perimeter and in Gush Katif. This is the time to return to Homesh, Sanur, Ganim and Kadim in the Shomron [which were razed in the Disengagement - ed.] and to places in which we still have military control.”
Kalfa estimates that the moderate Israeli left rarely presents its views nowadays, since it, too, has come to the understanding that Gush Katif was a necessary defense zone for the Negev and the entire country.
Concerning claims that his idea to return to Gush Katif is unattainable and unrealistic, Kalfa says that there are those who view it as a delusional notion, but he insists on reminding us that about ten years ago when Hamas spoke of firing rockets at the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod no one believed them nor could they have ever imagined that the rockets would be able to reach northern parts of Israel.
Kalfa calls for a critical analysis of the security situation and recognition of the deterioration in security since the Oslo Accords, which he claims has only intensified since the uprooting and expulsion from Gush Katif.
“They tell us that we have an opportunity to seize, but there is no opportunity. We do not have the privilege to play with our own security,” he says, and clarifies that the expectation of a return to Gush Katif is not a desire to become cannon fodder, but a plan that would be carried out after the army regains control of the Gaza Strip, and purges it from the nests of terrorists who threaten the citizens of Israel. Only then would Israel bring back the settlements, thus creating a secure and quiet situation for those living in the south and for Israelis in general.
“Today we’ve realized that all the words and statements about 'disengagement' and the creation of states for two nations, are the delusional ones. Those are unrealistic solutions that forsake Israel,” says Kalfa. He also has an opinion about the suggestions raised by right wing MKs, for complete civilian disengagement from the Gaza Strip, like the proposal of Yisrael Katz, the Minister of Transportation, to establish an artificial island on which Gaza would have its own airport and port with special arrangements. Kalfa deems these kinds of ideas dangerous experiments and believes it would be best to return to the way things were prior to the Oslo Accord, days in which southern residents shopped in the Gaza Strip, as proof of a normal life routine for Jews and Arabs in Gaza alike.
Furthermore, Kalfa mentions that the fear of being reprimanded by the world has to do with the lack of strength shown by Israeli leaders. He believes that if the Israeli leaders would clarify that there is no way that Israel will agree to live in a constant fear of terrorist acts and military operations costing billions, the notion would seep into the International perspective as well.