A Time to Resist, Soberly - Part II

If a majority of Israelis believe disengagement constitutes pikuach nefesh (saving lives) and is in our interest, then the government has a right to implement it. But we don't know if a majority of Israelis believe that; all we have are polls that say so.

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P. David Hornik

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[Part one of this article can be read at http://www.israelnn.com/article.php3?id=4625.]

If a majority of Israelis believe disengagement constitutes pikuach nefesh (saving lives) and is in our interest, then the government has a right to implement it. But we don't know if a majority of Israelis believe that; all we have are polls that say so. In other democracies, referendums are held on much less weighty issues than the life-and-death issue of disengagement. We, however, aren't granted a referendum, only polls.

Nevertheless, a civil disobedience campaign focused on settlement evacuation runs the risk of distorting what is at stake. Even if there had never been a single Israeli settlement in Gaza or northern Samaria, evacuating these areas now, handing them over carte blanche to jihadi terror, would to the exact same degree be a suicidal step that leaves other parts of Israel indefensible. It signals, once again, that relentless terror is "the way to go" and always leads Israel to cave, eventually.

It is natural for the settlers and their supporters, who have initiated the civil disobedience campaign, to focus on the issue of evacuating settlements. But where are the rest of the people - that is, the majority that is not leftist - and where have they been amid these ongoing outrages? This question perplexes many people, including supporters of Israel abroad. I can only suggest some possible answers:

1. The Israeli population is a uniquely traumatized and bewildered population. In addition to the battering of violence and hatred, it seems to have internalized the lessons that votes are meaningless, leaders do not mean what they say in any case, and activism is not only useless but often counterproductive, bringing the opposite results to what one intended. Remaining active and assertive in such a situation requires special strength. The settler community, being fired by a religious ideology, has the strength, while the rest of the non-leftist population does not, or not enough of it.

2. The Rabin assassination seems to have had a special traumatizing effect. Before it, I used to go to anti-Oslo rallies and see many people who, like me, lacked head covering. Since the Rabin assassination, the religious Right has been - until recently - much quieter too, but head-coverings have been predominant at the demonstrations that were held. I can't account for the depth of the Rabin assassination effect on the population - especially since it happened nine years ago and since then, far more Israelis have died as a result of government policy - but, apparently, it is there.

3. "Sharon knows things we don't know; he knows what he's doing." The belief in Ariel Sharon as a sort of security genius has been an important factor, from 2001 to the present, in inducing passivity in the population. People felt that, in 2001 and especially 2003, they had at last elected someone who knew how to deal with the situation, and they could sit back and let him work his wonders. I, too, was afflicted with this malady; I only got over it totally in 2004.

The question of why Sharon has turned into an Oslo-style leftist who ignores security realities in pursuing a blind capitulationist strategy is less important than the fact that he has indeed become one. Among people who are neither leftists nor firm opponents of disengagement, the psychological resistance is still potent - "It doesn't make sense, but he must know what he's doing." Hopefully, intelligence chief Avi Dichter's warnings about the dire security consequences of disengagement can help chip away at the syndrome.

Much of the damage wrought by our feckless, spineless leaders of the Oslo era cannot be undone; the dead cannot be brought back. The only hope of widening the civil disobedience campaign beyond the settler community and making it more effective is to reduce the emphasis on settlements and increase the emphasis on security, while trying to remind people what horrors their trust and passivity have already enabled.

The focus should be: the security implications of: abandoning territory in the midst of a war against a fanatic enemy; rewarding hostile, dangerous, anti-Semitic Egypt with power and prestige it has done nothing to deserve; leaving S'derot, Ashkelon and the surrounding area - and future areas in further disengagements - defenseless against missiles and infiltration; letting Gaza become an importer and incubator of ever-more-advanced weaponry, including WMD; strengthening Iran's already strong position in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan; very likely necessitating a re-invasion of Gaza and a larger, more difficult and costly war; further legitimizing total Israeli retreat as a "solution" to security situations, giving huge encouragement to our enemies; and so on.

The situation requires both passionate involvement and cool heads. A civil disobedience campaign that spirals into violence and chaos will make the anti-disengagement cause look fanatic and destructive, and do more harm than good.

[Part 2 of 2]


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