Sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have expressed their satisfaction with the speedy conclusion of the disengagement plan and breathed a sigh of relief as the nightmare scenarios discussed prior to the pullout did not come true.
While Sharon has triumphed in the international diplomatic arena, the internal battle still awaits him, the sources said.
“Along comes a leader and carries out a move that is dramatic on any level. Bush praises him, Chirac embraces him,” a source close to the prime minister said.
“What’s left for him now is to find housing solutions for the evacuees as quickly as possible and solve Israel’s political problems – not only within the Likud Party.”
Sources said fears that the pullout would result in a national rift proved to be false.
“There were isolated incidents of violence, but the red line was not crossed,” a source said.
“There are scratches, and there may be scars – but the nation was not torn apart.
Carrying a sack of stones
However, it is clear there is substantial trauma, and the most important task is to unify the nation. We must preserve the evacuees as a community.”
The source added that, “Sharon came out great in the eyes of the left, but the right considers him an expeller of Jews.”
“In any case, it is clear that the majority supports Arik Sharon,” he said.
Most political analysts contend elections are imminent, and Sharon’s people have no doubt he will seek another term in office.
“The question remains whether he will go to elections with the ministers who had opposed him – people like (Binyamin) Netanyahu, (Yisrael) Katz and (Danny) Naveh. Even if the prime minister would win the Likud primaries, he would still be carrying a sack of stones on his back,” a source close to Sharon said.
Other sources have acknowledged the possibility Sharon may opt to run as the leader of a different party, similar in its platform to Likud.
The sources expressed their hope that the persistence of the relative calm would weaken Sharon’s foes.
“I there will not be terror and the economy will continue to grow, even the most staunch Likud ideologists would find it hard to attack the prime minister or say, ‘look at the catastrophe Sharon has brought upon us,’” a source said.
'Many challenges still face us'
Thousands of soldiers and police officers who participated in the evacuation are scheduled to participate in a seminar aimed at pinpointing the lessons learned from the operation and processing the emotional experience related to it.
Earlier IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said, “looking back, there is no doubt the evacuation of citizens was carried out faster than anticipated, and this is a testament to the preparedness of both the IDF and police forces and the civilian authorities that took part in the operation, especially the Disengagement Authority and the Defense Ministry.”
“The behavior of the evacuated settlers must be commanded. Many challenges are ahead of us,” he said.
Halutz said he estimates the transfer of the equipment and the demolition of settlement homes will take about 10 days, while the evacuation of army bases would take an additional 10 days.
“During the operation we evacuated a total of some 15,000 citizens. The operation would not be a success without the work of the commanding officers, the soldiers and the police officers who conducted themselves in a logical manner – but with a lot of determination,” he said.
Police Chief Moshe Karadi said, “We completed the mission without casualties and in the best possible manner,” he said.
He praised the evacuating forces, saying, “We have completed a complex task, a national mission, but many challenges still face us.”