Will Israel repeat its five-year-old southern Lebanon pullout mistakes?
A unilateral withdrawal was the right solution back then, too; one that was even worth employing a few years earlier. However, it was the idea’s execution that was wrong, with the flawed implementation overshadowing the pullout's merits.
Leaving Lebanon instantly like thieves in the night while abandoning property to potential looters, along with the flight of scared Lebanese into Israel, made Israeli soldiers seem as though they were running away.
The above scenario comes in sharp contrast to the most recent, well-organized Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, which included a farewell military march.
For this is how pullouts should be undertaken in the Middle East: In broad daylight, over time, and with a march, so that it would not appear like a scared runout.
Soon, Israel will evacuate the Gaza Strip, and the question of what to do with the settlers’ homes resurfaces. Should the homes be left standing or taken down, what to do with the wreckage, should they be left there or cleared out.
According to Western logic employed by Israeli leaders in the Middle East, settlers’ houses should be left standing and transferred either to Palestinians or to a third party like the World Bank, as tearing them down would be a waste of money.
Just as Vice Premier Shimon Peres proposed earlier this week, these houses will be converted into Palestinian youth and leisure centers. As if this is what they need.
It is time to understand we live in the Middle East, a brutal region, in which subjective feelings and symbolism overcome the objective, logical, analytical approach.
This is a region where Egyptians “won” the Yom Kippur War in 1973, where Saddam Hussein “defeated” Iran in the eight-year war, and where Syria "chose" to leave Lebanon, as opposed to Israel, which “ran away” from there.
This is the region where perception, even if it is hallucinatory, determines reality
Unfortunately, certain Israeli leaders continue to use European terms to interpret the Middle East. However, these terms are often foreign to this region.
Therefore, these leaders actually project their own thinking onto the other side and later wonder at the realization that reality is different than their assumptions.
'Palestinians should find vacant land'
If Israel decides to leave settlers’ homes standing, the unruliness and rebelliousness of Palestinians looting the evicted settlements while flaunting Palestine Liberation Organization flags would probably suffice to motivate and perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a whole generation.
In the end, this pullout will probably symbolize how Palestinians managed to ruin an Israeli entity and loot it. At the face of such symbolism, all economic arguments should become minor and temporary.
The Israeli disengagement is already regarded as proof that violence and terror pay off and will always pay off.
In addition, in our region, displays of weakness prompt strikes on those perceived as weak. Despite the pain, it is time to tear down settlers’ homes, and clear the wreckage, too.
Palestinians arriving in Gush Katif after the pullout should find vacant land, just as it was left. Moreover, instead of building Palestinian youth and leisure centers, perhaps, for the first time in their history, they would direct their attention to rehabilitating their refugees.