Settler leader: People have lost faith in Zionist vision
Outgoing Binyamin Regional Council head Pinchas Wallerstein says, 'Had we started the struggle a week earlier, we would have won.' On eve of Annapolis conference, he believes 'the people are also allowed to make foolish decisions', but warns of national trauma
One of the prominent members of the Yesha Council over the past 30 years, Wallerstein believes that the council today "is more than relevant," but adds that nothing is guaranteed.
"The council must know that that if the people of Israel are not with us, we will lose the battle, regardless of which stage we are talking about. Eventually the people of Israel will decided, and they are allowed to make foolish decisions as well.
"I am part of the people of Israel, for good and for bad. If we don’t invest energy, efforts or ability, and if the people of Israel decide to disengage from the Judea and Samaria – they will disengage."
Recalling the battles on the eve of the disengagement from Gaza, Wallerstein admits," Not only did we not reach our goal, but we even took a step back."
A moment before retiring, Wallerstein says that the most difficult trauma he experienced was the uprooting of communities.
"Looking back," he tells Ynet, "It could have been prevented. This is my subjective feeling. I don’t think the decisions were erroneous, on the contrary. But had we started the battle a week earlier, we would have won.
"We launched the campaign a week before the summer break, and this was not enough for the creation of a perception which would prompt more than Netanyahu's resignation. I failed in convincing my friends to leave the government a year earlier. This is a tactical rather than a strategic failure."
On eve of disengagement with Yesha Council members (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Wallerstein's pain is first and foremost personal. "I am sad. I am grieving. There are those who think my mourning over the Gush Katif communities is exaggerated. It's true that I am reprimanded and cursed. It's sad when this happens and I take it to heart. On the other hand, I am driven by people who show me sympathy and support.
"I lost a small number of friends since the disengagement. I lost more people in my ideological group, people who left the way of Zionism and live next to me. I find this very difficult. When someone explains to people in the society I live in why one must not serve in the army today, this is what hurts me the most.
"For example, at a synagogue in Ofra a man refused to say a prayer for the State of Israel. I apologized to him and threw him out. I am thinking about some of these people's loss of way. This is a small group of serious people, who I do not degrade, and I say to my self: Dear God, how did such a situation occur causing these people to lose faith in their way?"
'Is this not ethnic cleansing?'
The disengagement led to a rift among members of the Religious Zionism movement, and ahead of a possible evacuation in the West Bank, there is fear of the rift deepening.
"It will happen much sooner," Wallerstein warns. "Even during the unjust evacuation of one unnecessary outpost in order to pay one's due to the Arabs or to an international commitment. I guarantee, unfortunately or fortunately, that the result will be 10 times more difficult and traumatic than the Amona evacuation.
"The public in the Judea and Samaria feels that its status is lower than that of the Bedouins in the Negev, in spite of its contribution to the society and the IDF.
"An evacuation is in fact harassment which will be perceived as evil. We don’t have the power to predict what this will lead do, and I am not sure we will want to practice restraint. We have among us people who have lost faith in the Zionist vision."
Addressing the multiple goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority, Wallerstein clarifies, "We can release terrorists and impose more restrictions on the settlements, but the growth in the Judea and Samria continues, especially in Binyamin. The next six months will require the Yesha Council to deal with new, more difficult challenges.
He particularly slams the separation fence. "As far as Olmert and Ramon are concerned, it has a political meaning – no Jews beyond the fence. If this is not ethnic cleansing, what is?"
And where is headed now? "There is no such thing as being over. There is always something else to do. I plan to continue the settlement enterprise, it's the enterprise of my life, and am looking into the possibility of helping Gush Katif evacuees.
"If I am offered a position at the Yesha Council, something I can contribute in, I will accept, but only if all the members vote for me."
He does not plan to join national politics. "I think serious people should go there," he says.