Confessions of a Pragmatic Disengagement Opponent

This is not necessarily a "religious-secular" dichotomy: one could oppose the disengagement mainly for religious reasons while still understanding the validity of some of the proponents' arguments, and not tarring these people as weak, bad, incomprehensibly myopic and so on.

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P. David Hornik

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Arutz 7
When the Disengagement Plan was first announced, I was ambivalent. I was attracted by the idea of just separating from Gaza with its million-plus Arabs, it slums and hatred. I wondered, though, if it was really feasible from a security standpoint.

I was troubled, too, by the settlement issue. Although I understood the arguments for dismantling the communities that were isolated in an Arab sea, I could see less reason for doing away with Gush Katif and the northern settlements, which were apart from the main Gaza population. But my main concern was security: did Ariel Sharon and his advisors have some formula for containing the Gaza terror threat after the IDF had left?

The more I read about it, the more I realized that they did not - and this was back in the time when there was still talk of Israel maintaining control over land, sea and air access to Gaza. On the day I read about the plan to have Egyptian border policemen replace the IDF on the Philadelphi Route, I became an opponent of disengagement and have been one ever since.

My opposition, then, is on pragmatic grounds. I've also remained attuned to the pro-disengagement camp's arguments about separation and demography, and somewhat sympathetic toward them. This has sometimes made it difficult for me to communicate with fellow opponents, many of whom do not seem to feel they are taking a political position in an argument, but engaging in a crusade. This is not necessarily a "religious-secular" dichotomy: one could oppose the disengagement mainly for religious reasons while still understanding the validity of some of the proponents' arguments, and not tarring these people as weak, bad, incomprehensibly myopic and so on.

But now that the reality is upon us, a few further thoughts:

1. Many conscripted and reserve soldiers who hated guarding the Gaza settlements won't have to do so anymore. It is possible to feel relief at this while still keeping all the implications in mind. The morale of soldiers is important, whether or not one agrees with their views. Although some of these malcontents had poor morale in the first place and were looking for excuses, others did not; they felt there wasn't any need for these settlements that justified a military investment.

Once, on reserve duty, I argued with one in the latter category - and not in Gaza, but in Gush Etzion: "This is an area we need for security in any case. If it weren't for these settlements, it would look like alien land, like southern Lebanon. I feel much better seeing the Jewish presence here, which reminds me that this is my home, too, and why I'm here to defend it." I didn't convince him. When, as is all too likely, the IDF has to return to Gaza to fight a much stronger terror enclave under much poorer conditions, some of these same people will feel depressed at how alien and Lebanon-like it's become, and will miss the settlements. It's a shame that such costly learning processes are still necessary, but they are.

2. Understanding and empathizing with the views and feelings of others, even when - particularly when - one disagrees, is the key to unity. If we're right that the disengagement will bring intensified terror and political pressures, then Israel needs unity as never before. Just as the Oslo War led many people to abandon their illusions about Yasser Arafat, the PLO and the Palestinians generally, the third Intifada will cause more people to realize that in our small land, territory can't just be handed gratis to enemies while all Jewish connections are nullified.

Many in the settlement movement understandably feel sinned against by the disengagement. The way to overcome anger at those who favored it is to grant that they meant well and to accept the reality of disagreement. The national-religious camp must not disengage from Israel or even consider it; we need you too much.

3. The greatest sin was Sharon's refusal of a national referendum - an idea that the disengagement opponents were still gracious enough to accept even after Sharon threw the results of the Likud referendum in the garbage. It may well be that, at this moment, a majority of Israelis oppose the policy, especially as they see the terrorists celebrating and multiplying while, again, our government meekly gives in on all its supposed red lines. The fact that the policy proceeds anyway causes deep feelings of bitterness and humiliation at being trampled by a dictator.

Sharon and his corrupt claque won't last forever, and hopefully will be voted out soon. We are larger than them and we will survive them.


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