A year after Disengagement: Was it worth it?
A treachery to Zionist principles and a loss of deterrence - or an essential concession of occupied territory, which gave Israel worldwide credit in its fight against terror? A Yesha rabbi and the chairman of 'the national commander' in an orange-blue (perhaps better to say left-right) debate about Disengagement and Realignment
This week we marked the first anniversary of the destruction of the people and Jewish communities of Gaza. Few incidents in the life of our nation have yielded such immediate results on the ground, in their full force and fury, from a standpoint of crime and punishment.
security has deteriorated to a point of being almost unrecognizable, as a direct result, natural and divine, of the disintegration of our deterrent ability.
The national crisis that began following the tragic disengagement is ten-fold more serious than the fact we relinquished land and renounced our dream of the Whole Land of Israel.
Before and during the destruction I thought (and wrote) that the selling out of Zionist values, the shattering of democratic principles and the critical gamble with the security of the citizens of this country were much worse than the personal suffering of the displaced people and their families.
In hindsight, it turns out that the national results are more pregnant with disaster than we ever imagined. We are still, even after the "ceasefire", in the midst of a "Lebanon War II" that stemmed from the foolhardy disengagement, and whose end is yet to be seen.
After the disastrous project, I believed that time would work its magic and we would be able to overcome the national crisis and repair the wounds. I hoped we would return to our Jewish, social national agenda, and that we would be free to build our nation, instead of the place we abandoned.
To my great disappointment, none of this occurred. The events of the Jewish year 5766 (let the year and its curses come to an end!), like the handing of power to opportunistic hands, the introduction of the terrible "realignment" plan, rocket fire on quiet, previously-secure cities, in type and scope unseen since the second World War.
Our blood is being let in a Syrian-Iranian experiment of new-generation terror missiles, bringing to mind the terrible process of last year.
From a national standpoint, I think the trauma of disengagement can be compared to the trauma following the Rabin assassination. It may be difficult to compare two vastly different tragedies, and it is even more difficult to weigh them up on scale, but I will try.
Personal motivations of the darkest type
A government commission of inquiry once recommended the initiator of disengagement be removed from roles in the defense establishment due to his indirect responsibility for events at Sabra and Shatilla.
That complicated things for us in Gaza and Lebanon, but we've yet to see a commission appointed to investigate either the decision-making process, the results, or the motivations.
Senior defense personalities who steered the IDF leading up to the disengagement - Moshe Ya'alon, Giora Eiland, and others - expressed their opinions (in advance, not after the Qassams and Katyushas started falling) that there was more-than-reasonable expectation that the move was influenced and guided by personal motivations of the darkest type. In the media, this is called "spin."
I say here and in public that there will be no domestic quiet and no national reconciliation without a broad commission of inquiry. It must investigate the entire process, especially hidden agendas, if indeed there were any.
The folks who opened the Philadelphi Route to a free flow of arms and ammunition, in opposition to security advice, are also responsible for the Lebanese front, a natural consequence of the Gaza pullout.
Really, there is no need to prepare an indictment for the commission of inquiry; that was done at the Supreme Court in the summer of 2005. Then, the state (who is that, exactly?) claimed disengagement was "measured and for a good purpose," because it contained "an improvement in security, a reduction in friction between the IDF and the Palestinians, a reduction in the desire to hurt Israeli civilians and encouraging the Palestinian Authority to carry out its duties in fighting terror."
One marginal detail must be investigated: Who wrote these messianic ideas, and what were they based on? And, at the same time, what were the "state's" hidden agendas?
Even though the commission of inquiry has yet to be set up, the time has come for the Israeli government to apologize for its rape of half the population of this country. Together with the falsification of predictions of victory in Lebanon and the evaporation of arrogant statements that have become, heartbreakingly, a national disaster of historical proportions, faith has also been lost in Olmert's motivations.
The suspicion creeps in to the head that "tidings of convergence" are meant to light the path of its supporters. After all, we are already been discharged to it.
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen is a West Bank rabbi and the head of the Tzomet Institute in Alon Shvut
In the spring of 2005 "The People's Voice" was asked to take a stance about the central issue on the public agenda. In theory, the fact that we were promoting a bi-lateral agreement would have meant we should oppose unilateral moves.
Despite this, we led the extra-parliamentary campaign to support disengagement. We sent thousands of volunteers to the streets and intersections of Israel to distribute blue-and-white ribbons. Our support stemmed from the belief that the plan was an important step to securing Israel's continued existence as a Jewish, democratic country.
We did this with heavy heart, and as opposed to what many people think - we had no illusions. On the eve of disengagement, I wrote:
"The day after we will be no closer to a permanent agreement, the message that 'there is someone to talk to' will not be advanced, and the pragmatic Palestinian leadership will not be strengthened. But if the move succeeds, it will set a domestic Israeli precedent to show that Israel is capable of admitting mistake and withdrawing from territory."
The process was not easy, mainly for evictees, and was accompanied by typical Israeli organizational problems and lack preparation. These points have already been addressed by the state comptroller, who in one breath mentioned the lack of willingness on the part of evictees to cooperate, a fact some people tend to forget.
Do we regret?
In light of recent events in Gaza and Lebanon, do we regret our support for disengagement? In light of the Qassams raining down on the Negev, events at Kerem Shalom and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, should we refuse to evacuate territory? In light of the war in Lebanon is it clear we should not compromise? The answer to these questions is "no."
As we are once again experiencing in Lebanon, security cannot be bought by the military alone, nor by controlling territory. Once again, we see that only by neutralizing extreme elements and pushing them away from positions of influence can we restore security to settlements in the north. To do this, we must strengthen pragmatic forces, such as the Lebanese government, and we need the cooperation of the international community.
Similarly, security will be created only by dialogue and agreements that will strengthen moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority, not by unilateral pullouts. These strengthen only Hamas.
International support is critical
Recent events in Gaza and Lebanon can teach another important lesson: International support is critical not only for diplomatic agreements, but also to conduct far-reaching military moves. The credit we got for this intensive IDF operation in Lebanon for the last few weeks stemmed from the fact that most of the world viewed us as being in the right.
This means that as long as we continue to rule the Palestinians, we will of course continue to kill and be killed, but we will also not be able to act freely to defend our borders. This is because the international community does not view our hold on Judea and Samaria as legitimate, and will give us no credit to conduct a massive operation there.
Today, too, we believe Israel must initiate a diplomatic process, and should adopt the six red lines proposed by The People's Agreement (The Ayalon-Nusseibeh proposal), and should back up these declarations with immediate public operations: Completing the security fence, applying the Evacuation-Compensation Law to all settlers living east of the fence, and the clearing of illegal outposts.
The goal: Jewish, democratic country
The settler community, which paid a heavy personal and communal price for the disengagement, must recognize the fact that the fence being built in the heat of the Land of Israel is dividing the land into two countries. Sooner or later, wisely or foolishly, sensitively or insensitively, those living east of the fence will be forced to return to the borders of the state of Israel.
Technically, the state has proven its ability to remove them, and there is reason to believe that if we learn from the mistakes of disengagement, the next move can be conducted better, in the framework of a final status agreement, with concern for the evictees and enough time and appropriate alternatives that will make it possible for them to leave of their own accord and with cooperation.
We will never agree with the "orange brigades" about the past, and our conclusions about the experiences of the past year are fundamentally at odds. Despite this, we must find a joint future that wwill enable us to repair the schism in this country, in an Israel that is entirely blue-and-white.
Despite the war in Lebanon and Gaza, we will agree that our joint goal is to create a Jewish, democratic country. The road to achieve this will be long and difficult, but I believe we can agree that the eternal people is not afraid of a long path.
Orni Petrushka is the head of The People's Voice