Tzvi Hendel
Tzvi HendelArutz Sheva-Israel National News

Tzvi Hendel, former head of the Gaza Coast Council and an evacuee from Ganei Tal, spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News, in preparation for Gush Katif Day events in the education system, that will take place on 22 Shvat [February 1st].

Hendel said that he is excited to see photos of the IDF soldiers operating in areas from which Israel withdrew during the Disengagement.

"I pray that the soldiers return safe and sound. That is the most important thing, and every now and then I get excited when they discover something new on the ground. After all, for many years, until the intifada, Gaza was our district city, where the IDF headquarters and Civil Administration offices were located," said Hendel.

Hendel referred to the issue of returning to Gush Katif and believes that although he would like to see this happen, it will still be some time, due to the lack of public consensus: "Today, everyone is asking, ‘will you establish settlements or not, will you return or not.’ I don't know if we will return now or if it will take some time, but we need the consensus of a broad spectrum of the Israeli society, so that there is no fighting about this. But, ultimately, there is no other solution to the Gaza Strip."

"A Palestinian state? This is nonsense. What are they going to do? Build a bridge over Israel to connect Gaza with Judea and Samaria? Will there be a tunnel? This is nonsense. The Arab society in Judea and Samaria is also not the same as the Arab society in the Gaza Strip. These are different groups of people, and they don’t like each other that much. Egypt hates the Palestinians. The obvious solution is to connect the Gaza Strip with Egypt, but there is no chance for that happening. The only option, therefore, is that it will be part of Israel. Just as there is Nazareth in the north, so there will Gaza be in the south. Once they understand – and it is up to us – that this is the solution, everything will be much calmer. We need to know that we are in control, and we need to make order when necessary," added Hendel.

He believes that the conference held on the subject and the attempts to raise it to public awareness do not add or diminish it in any way: "We will achieve it, whether we put pressure or not, whether we organize conventions on the return to Gush Katif or not. The IDF must be present in the Gaza Strip and there must be Jewish communities nearby."

Hendel also said that at the right time, a large majority of the nation will understand the importance of establishing Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip.

"Without Jewish presence, it will be like Lebanon, where we were in a foreign land only waiting to find out when we were going to leave," he explained. "We have to understand that we have to arrange some level of normal living circumstances for the Arabs as well. They also have to know that they must be loyal to the landlord. If we lead a course that makes it clear that we are there, then when the army is there, they will know that there is going to be an attack, and it doesn't fall like thunder on a sunny day, and the intelligence isn’t taken by surprise. Today, the people are not yet ready for that."

"They managed to engrave in the minds of everyone in Israel that Yitzhak Rabin was our enemy or hated us. I was very close with the late Yitzhak Rabin and talked to him a lot. It was clear to us that we didn't agree and we didn't try to hide that, but we knew how to appreciate and respect each other. If Yitzhak Rabin was alive Oslo would not have existed, because he would have canceled the agreement in an instant. He did not initiate the Accords, but Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin forced him to do so. It all stems from the fact that they are scared of us. What do they think that we will do? Haim Beer expressed it well when he described religious Zionism. So, true that we have an ideology and we want to implement it, we are not ashamed of it. There are some who find it very difficult," emphasized Hendel.

"I make an effort to remain silent and this is the best method of communicating with anyone who is not able to listen to others. There are a lot of people on our side who want unity - and there are many who have the opposite feelings of hatred and poison in their eyes. It will pass and we have to be patient," he added.

Hendel said that he felt broken when he saw that all the warnings that he and his friends had shouted out were realized in the October 7th massacre. "I don't like to say 'we told you so' but my heart aches for the communities surrounding Gaza. They rejoiced when they kicked me out of their homes, but my Jewish heart doesn't prevent me from hugging them."

He was asked if the healing process that Israeli society went through in the days since the massacre will not lead to significant unity and he replied, "I truly hope that this will happen. Those who were on the Left and hated us and shouted 'just not Bibi' will already find the appropriate clauses to continue the hatred. There won’t be such an extreme cardinal change that will enable us to make a real change in direction. Unfortunately, the gap is very large."

In conclusion, Hendel stressed the Religious Zionist community’s part in the war: "I'm bursting with pride when I see all the kippah wearers. You can tell me what you want, but the truth is that they have unique strength. You see the tremendous love and the warm embraces between the soldiers."