Photo: AP
Amona evacuation
Photo: AP
Mandate to reach out to the settlers
Settlers may be guilty for their fate, but eventually we will all have to live together

The penny has dropped. The country has made a clear decision: There is wide, bi-partisan support for dividing the Land of Israel.


In contrast to Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, all of whom opposed this platform – sometimes at an angle of 180 degrees
– Olmert put a far-reaching diplomatic plan on the table, and the country gave a resounding "yes" (even if the approval rating was smaller than expected).


And the plan will be carried out, the Land of Israel will be divided, and no one can say there is no mandate to do so. But this time – especially because there is such an impressive mandate, because this election produced the biggest electoral victory the pullout (not necessarily the peace) camp has ever known – we must do things differently.


"He doesn’t even have one day's grace," says one cliché about the newly-elected prime ministers. Quite the opposite: There is enough time until we "take our fate into our own hands." Time to lick the wounds of the campaign, the wounds of the last pullout.


Speak to the settlers


There is time to renew dialogue with a huge constituency of this country, a group that feels more and more betrayed from day to day. A group that feels the country and all its institutions – the Supreme Court, the media, the army and the police – has turned its back to it and its troubles.


After all, "the settlers made their own beds. Now let them lie in them."


Even radical leftists cannot remain apathetic to the state comptroller's report about the country's failure to prepare for disengagement and for dealing with the evictees. True, the residents are also (perhaps mainly) guilty of this; it was they who refused all contact with the Disengagement Authority and chose to believe that "everything will be alright."


Their rabbis, too, also (perhaps especially) are guilty, for giving false hope, and rolling their eyes heavenward on eviction day.


But those who chose to evict them failed to do enough to engage the settlers in that process, to draw them into it, or at least to make sure they weren't re-evicted from their hotels just before Rosh Hashana.


Other lessons


This is not the only lesson the new Kadima-Labor-Meretz-Shas-Lieberman-government must learn from the last pullout.


The security authority in consolidating this process and the final borders was in our hands. The process was completed, and we suddenly discovered there was no solution for border crossings – and essentially, legally speaking, the occupation continued.


We needed the Americans to intervene and a cold shower from Ms Rice to force us to accept a poor solution, one that has barely been implemented. Next time, we must hope the generals are forced to sit with legal advisors, and especially with a strong foreign ministry, with the only political representative prepared to argue with the chief justice.


Open questions


Another cliché says that anything a prime minister fails to do during his first year, he will never do. This is also not exactly accurate, and not historically correct.


The general direction of the government's diplomatic plans have been presented to the public. Now is the time to shape that plan slowly, carefully, without leaving dull edges.


Where will the border be? Where will the fence run? Will the Supreme Court approve the route, or will we once again be forced to stop the bulldozers and change the route?


How much will we have to pay in compensation? Where LINK;,7340,L-3232251,00.html is the money going to come from? And how will all be accomplished without repeating the frightening scenes from Amona LINK,7340,L-3209330,00.html?


Other issues


The "convergence plan" was the best thing Olmert had to offer, and it is clear that Sharon tore down his political house in order to clear the way for that plan. But beyond political momentum, there are other fateful decisions facing the 17th Knesset.


The struggle between religion and state, for instance, that was a major issue in recent election campaigns – Shas won 17 seats in 1996, and Shinui won 15 three years later – has faded for the moment, but it is sure to resurface.


If this government really does manage to finally pass a constitution, and maybe also changes the political system, who will represent the secular bloc? Shinui is gone, Meretz is shrinking, Kadima and Labor are the parties in power and support the status-quo. Who will balance out Shas and Agudat Yisrael?


It is not only settler leaders and representatives of the orange brigades that Olmert must seek out for dialogue; he must also seek out this constituency. One may assume that many more of them voted with their feet by abandoning the ballot box. The prime minister must also nurture this community.


This is the time to struggle together with our problems, with our future partnerships and with those who will remain in opposition or outside the Knesset completely. Eventually, from within permanent borders, we will be forced to live with each other.




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