The Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, never fully explained to the Israeli public the reasons for his decision to disengage and dismantle settlements in Gush Katif and the West Bank. He merely did it in general terms, maintaining that this dramatic move is good for Israel, which now is being perceived as having taken the initiative - shaping its own destiny.
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The overriding reality is that nobody knows for sure what had motivated his initiative. No one is able to fathom his innermost thinking, motives, needs, expediency, the reality and prevailing circumstances – the sum of all these has resulted in a unilateral withdrawal, a far reaching step, an outcome that nobody can evaluate for sure – the benefits of which are in the realm of mere promises and expectations – not an internationally binding agreement.
The two principal aides of the prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Senior Advisor Dov Weisglass articulated the rationale of the disengagement on his behalf. Their message to the public hinges on the following themes: The burden is too heavy to carry; Israel is intifada weary, despaired - thus the burden has to be alleviated to shorten our lines of defense.
'Government can get away with anything'
This is reinforced by unprecedented American assurance related to the future of the peace process - to be or not to be continued. Of course one can cast doubts on those contentions: Will the relieved burden be replaced by severe problems and dangers closer to home?
One can also cast doubts on the velocity and continuous validity of the American commitments. Will they withstand the dynamic of a resumed, full-fledged peace process? The enigma of the decision to unilaterally withdraw against no secured returns will hover over the Middle East and the Israeli political system.
Meanwhile, prior to the disengagement, we in Israel have already paid and are still paying a heavy price: Due to the overwhelming preoccupation with the disengagement, major issues and challenges are deferred, delayed, neglected and overlooked.
The government can get away with everything. There is no opposition. First, the Labor Party, and now Shinui, did not function as a genuine opposition almost to the extent of “unconstitutional” behavior.
'Corruption can go rampant and unchallenged'
Labor, from day one, was crawling to the Sharon government under the pretext of disengagement as a “compensation” for the ill-fated Oslo agreement, though Sharon regards the Oslo process with disdain. If it were not for the prevailing hypocrisy of Israeli politics and its politicians, those two points of departure could not be reconciled.
The Yahad Party, sharing the same complex, allowed the support for the disengagement to eclipse its own record in social legislation. Now Yosef Lapid, as the leader of the opposition, is a submissive servant of the prime minister, yearning and speculating when his party will be “reinstated” to Sharon’s government.
'Israel deserves better'
In the absence of an opposition true to its missions and principles, in light of the absolute preoccupation with the disengagement and in view of the fact that political parties surrender their ideology (to the extent it still exists), social commitments are abandoned due to one dramatic move - unilateral withdrawal
Therefore, corruption can go rampant and unchallenged, crime can remain undeterred, and the virtues of the very ethos of Israel the welfare state can dissipate at the expense of the cohesiveness of our society.
The ailing educational system can further deteriorate, the underprivileged must keep waiting to be saved and watch the ever-cementing relationship between capital and government. A banking system that calls for revamping can wait as well.
Every day that goes by only accentuates the severity of these problems and challenges and accelerates the looming profound crises of Israeli society.
The disengagement has become a pretext, an excuse not to tackle and confront the true problems Israel faces. The Israeli people deserve a political system that does not betray its needs and hopes – that does not hind behind the unilateral withdrawal, or disengagement.
Eytan Bentsur is former director-general of the Foreign Ministry