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Shaul Arieli

It was us who 'told you so'

Pullout objectors did not tell us they refuse to talk to moderate Palestinians

For three months now, since the Lebanon campaign started, a wide array of speakers – uniformed and otherwise – are making righteous pretensions while bombarding us with declarations: "Disengagement was suicide, "It was perceived as weakness and didn't contributed to peace," and also "the settlers stopped, with their bodies, terror from reaching Ashkelon and Sderot."


These "revelations" are concluded with a typical "I told you so," also backed by full-time talkback writers. They all point an accusing finger at almost all directions, to the point it appears none of us was here in recent years or forgot what happened during that time. This is the time to remind those who already know everything of some truths:


Yes, we were weak. We left Gaza because we were too weak to demographically beat, through 7,000 Jews, 1.25 million Palestinians concentrated in 1.25 percent of the western Land of Israel's territory. We left because we were too weak to diplomatically defeat all UN and international law decisions ruling that Gaza is an occupied zone, even if for us it is considered part of our native land.


We left because we were too weak morally to maintain a regime of separation between the two populations living in that same occupied territory. We left because the IDF was too weak to carry the burden of this impossible security, diplomatic, demographic and moral reality forced on it.


Yes, disengagement did not contribute to peace. Because the government and those who led it, elected by today's critics, did not seek peace and did not pursue a final-status agreement as we asked. Sharon launched the disengagement plan two weeks after the publication of the Geneva Initiative because he argued that "the stagnation inherent in the current situation damages Israel" and because "the disengagement provided the required quantity of formalin so that there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians" (according to Sharon advisor Weisglass.)


Disengagement was a unilateral move by a government that in its decision stressed that "this isn't part of the Road Map," and that "Israel should initiate a move that is unconditioned on Palestinian cooperation."


The evacuation was not a step to peace, as the Left that backed it demanded it should be, but rather, a move aimed at "boosting Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria…which will obviously remain under Israeli sovereignty."


Disengagement was not a step ahead of the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, "a move that would render invalid the arguments against Israel regarding its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," even if Israel continues to control the air, sea, crossings, electricity, water, commence, and whatnot.


No, political and territorial separation from the Palestinians in the Territories is not suicide. "The holding of 3.5 million Palestinians…," in Sharon's words, is the suicide of Israel as a Jewish state. "Holding them under occupation" and a regime of separation is the suicide of Israel as a democratic state.


The earmarking of tens of billions of shekels to the settlements on the one hand, and the loss of billions in investments and income from the international community on the other hand, are Israel's economic suicide.


The phenomenon of illegal outposts and attacks on Palestinians by some settlers – attacks that could not be stopped even by the attorney general's calls, Supreme Court rulings, and government decisions – those mark Israel's suicide as state ruled by law and order.


No, the settlers did not stop terrorism with their bodies. They did not go there to replace the IDF, but rather, to settle protected by its weapons. Some of them arrived in order to get out of neighborhoods in Ashkelon, Sderot, and Netivot, and others came to "inherit the promised land."


The communities around Gaza were forced to carry the burden of the conflict even back when Egypt controlled Gaza. They suffered even more terror attacks, Qassam rockets, and mortar shells when Gush Katif communities were still there.


The settlements, on their 1,800 families, required the security provided by thousands of soldiers and hundreds of millions of shekels, with the tiny chance that keeping them would have an effect on Israel's security and its permanent borders grasped even by Sharon.


This led him to rule that "in any future final-status agreement, there would be no Israeli settlement in the Strip," even though earlier he believed that "Netzarim and Tel Aviv are the same."


No, you didn't "tell us so." You told us that you object to the evacuation of Gaza and IDF withdrawal from the Strip without an agreement, but you didn't say you would agree to also evacuate Judea and Samaria, or at least trade off territory, as we suggested, in exchange for a final-status agreement.


You made sure to declare all the time that "there's no Palestinian people," that "the Land of Israel belongs only to the people of Israel," and that "it's better to disengage from the State of Israel than from the Land of Israel."


You said that the government should take care of your security and economic wellbeing, but you didn't say you reject the Israeli government's and Knesset's authority to renounce parts of our native land even in exchange for peace agreements.


Backwind to terrorism?

You said the decision is illegal, but you didn't tell us that you turned to the Supreme Court only to later reject its decision against your petition, and that you would head out as if you were masters of the land to disrupt life in the country's roads and cities.


You told us disengagement would provide Hamas and terrorism with a backwind, but you didn't tell us you are unwilling to talk to any other Palestinian, even if he recognizes Israel and seeks to continue negotiating with it.


The belligerent unilateral perception that stood at the base of the disengagement and still seeks realignment marks the recent Israeli governments' strategic failure. We were the ones who sought to apply to the Palestinians the formula that worked with Egypt and Jordan – "Land for peace."


Yet you wanted both of them only on the Israeli side of the equation. You must internalize the fact that we cannot convince the Arabs to voluntarily join the Zionist movement. Yet we can make sure they accept us and our existence as a fact in the Middle East.


This can be done through military supremacy - not eroded in roadblocks and permit examinations - that constitutes an essential condition for the State of Israel's existence, but also through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state through an agreement, which constitutes an essential condition for Israel remaining a Jewish, democratic state.


Shaul Arieli is an IDF colonel (Res.), one of the Geneva Accord initiators, and a member of the Council for Peace and Security


פרסום ראשון: 10.10.06, 18:55
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