Sunday, August 14, 2005

My 2 Cents on Disengagement

We are standing on the eve of the disengagement process in Israel or the Hitnatkut (lit. detachment \ disconnection \ severance), and while my mind is at ease with this process, my heart is aching for the many who will lose their homes and the many hundreds of thousands of others who will see this move as regressing a two thousand year old dream.

THE LOGIC OF DISENGAGEMENT

I have long supported this move by Sharon and see this proactive step as a necessary evil for Israel to gain control over a peace process that has spiralled beyond its control and has become typified by a series of reactive measures. But above all, the disengagement delays the effects of Israel’s biggest threat – “the wombs of Palestinian mothers” (as described by the Palestinian leadership). The threat posed by the disparity in population growth between the Israelis and Palestinians is a ticking time bomb. It is clear to say that Israel does not have time on its side and without disengagement and consequent steps separating Israel from the bulk of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), there will be more Arabs than Jews living between Jordan and the sea – by which time the Palestinian request will no longer be for a two state solution, but rather a one state solution in which they control government.

That said, I share the pain of those who will be affected by this process and of those who have yet to internalise the severity of the threat that disengagement is defusing. I suppose the process is akin to a person who must amputate a gangrenous leg. The process itself is necessary for the survival of the body as a whole, but try and sell that theory to the leg that is about to be amputated.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

The international community will no doubt be on the wrong side of justice once more:

The will not understand that Israel has risked deeply dividing its nation for the sake of disengagement, a cause the Palestinian leadership has cited for not fighting against their brothers in Hamas; they will not understand the inherent unfairness in the fact that the forcible removal of every Jew from the land to be transferred to the Palestinians is seen as a necessaty, while an equivelant forcible removal of Arabs from land controlled by Israel is unthinkable; and as always, they will not understand the extent of the Jewish connection to this land.

They will minimise the sacrifice Israel has made (more concrete than any step taken by the Palestinian side); they will dispute her control over the Palestinian-Egyptian border and Gaza’s ports (air and sea - necessary for arms control); and they will prevent Israel from annexing those parts of the West Bank that will clearly remain Israel under any future agreement (such as Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim).

But nevertheless, this is a process that Israel must go through for its own sake, not for the sake of the international community.

THE DAY AFTER

The disengagement and Netanyahu’s resignation from government last week have some implication on the future of Israeli politics.
  • The timing of his resignation suggests that Netanyahu wanted the process of disengagement to be completed under Sharon’s tenure. Netanyahu could have quit some months back and provided strong political leadership for the anti-disengagement movement, but rather he voted for the move, sat in the government throughout its planning phase and merely stepped aside prior to implementation to position himself politically for his next battle – control of the Likud party.
  • At this stage, Sharon’s future as the leader of the Likud party is shaky and unless a new centrist party emerges in Israel, Sharon now has little chance of being on a ticket in next year’s election.
  • Sharon will be judged by his last major political move – the disengagement. A process that ends in perceived failure (such as Hamas flags waving on former settlements); on in an unclear result (the most likely result) is likely to reduce Sharon’s popularity. I see no real way of the process being a resounding success. There is only that much spin you can put on an amputation.
  • With Sharon and Peres out of the running for the next year’s election (barring the emergence of a new centrist party), it will be the battle for the next generation’s leadership (a la Netanyahu vs. Barak’s 1999 election. Certainly, Barak has been doing all he can to have his rematch). The question is can Israel’s next generation offer the public the same security and vision that Israel’s founding generation had?
  • It seems that Sharon like Barak before him have bet their political future on a single strategic move. Barak lost his bet. Let’s hope Sharon does not lose his.

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