Friday, June 11, 2004


The Daily Ha'aretz Link

Yoel Marcus, politically a pretty middle-of-the road writer and an unflagging believer in Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan, gives four comments on the situation in today's Ha'aretz. A brief summary of each and comments on them.

"America demands immediate evacuation of outposts: No excuses left." With all due respect to the "senior member of President Bush's entourage" whose remarks were given front-page coverage in Haaretz, this threat can be filed away as a bunch of hot air.
Absolutely. The concessions made to Israel by the Bush administration have not increased US sway in Israel. If anything the opposite is true - Sharon has other things on his plate, and he knows that Bush is invested much more heavily in the Gaza withdrawal than illegal outposts in the West Bank. So why the "demand"? Who knows, maybe for a few headlines that the US can point to as proof of its "fairness" in dealing with Israel.

2. There is going to be great difficulty in removing the settlements.
To keep the worst from happening, two things must be done: (a) Draft legislation that will provide the settlers with generous compensation and cushion the start of the second chapter of their lives and businesses. Most of them settled in these places at the invitation of the government, and with its active encouragement. They were told that they were safeguarding national security, etc. The best thing is to work out an agreement with them whereby they leave of their own free will. (b) And no less important: Make it snappy. Adopt the one-fell-swoop method employed by Ben-Gurion to leave Gaza and Sinai in 1957, and by Barak, to quit Lebanon.
However, as Marcus points out earlier in comment #2, "tens of thousands of settlers from all over the country will head down there to confront the Israel Defense Forces because they know that the settlements of Judea and Samaria are next. And seeing the fuss they kick up to defend some shed or portable toilet, and how they torment policemen and soldiers, we can only assume that in a real showdown, blood will flow." And this is what is going to make 2a) partly irrelevant (getting the settlers already there to leave is not going to stop the radical minority from making it a violent and nationally divisive operation) and 2b) harder than it seems, given the situation of Sharon's government. Which brings us to...

Meanwhile, [Sharon] heads a minority government, but that doesn't scare him. Calling early elections isn't even a consideration. It's like cholent: You know what you put in the oven, but you never know what comes out. In any case, according the law you can't topple a government unless 61 MKs come up with a substitute candidate. Whatever happens, joining forces with the Labor Party, which will give Sharon 71 seats, is always an option, 24 hours a day. Even as a lifelong opponent of unity governments, that's the one and only alternative open to him. How long can things go as they are?
Marcus is very confident in Sharon's will to push this to fruition, but once things spring into action, the already tenuous governmental situation may shift quite drastically. Finally,

[P]ublic discourse has descended into a shouting match filled with gutter language, vulgarity and physical threats. The worst are the rabbis who have set themselves up as lawmakers and supreme authorities on the most sensitive political issues. The crude speech and intimidation recall the days leading up to the Rabin assassination, and even worse. Amazingly, there has been no condemnation of this verbal violence from the intellectuals, or even the president ... This country cannot afford another assassinated prime minister.
And here is the crux of the matter, that is, just how alarmingly divisive the withdrawal of Gaza settlements could become if it ever comes to fruition. And this is where I have my serious doubts about who is going to join Sharon in forcing this issue. The hard right is willing to force the issue, that's a given. The hard left, as much as it opposes the settlements, will probably not go into battle led by Sharon. Shinui, although ideologically anti-settlement, I think is ultimately an opportunistic party, and may not find this struggle to be in its best interest. The same goes for Labor (only with less ideology to get in the way). Much of Likud has no interest in ousting the settlers, and the other half might swing into line with the first if blood starts to flow. Sharon's will to see this through might begin to wane, as will others' with not so much invested in the Gaza pull-out, in the face of an atmosphere that "recall[s] the days leading up to the Rabin assassination, and even worse." With inaction becoming the safest alternative, it's hard for me to see the Gaza withdrawal getting off the ground at all.

it's hard for me to see the Gaza withdrawal getting off the ground at allVery true.

The Gaza plan seems to be more of a way to ease the conscience of the US, than actually accomplish anything. It's very telling when a Palestinian man in a wheelchair is killed by Israeli soldiers (Just hours after passing the cabinet vote). Clearly, for every forward step taken in the area there are two steps back. It's hard to be optimistic.

Excellent Blog, by the way.
Indeed. It's always nice to have something to talk about ("Road Map", Gaza Withdrawal, Ronald Reagan, what-have-you) to distract the media from people dying. And thanks for the compliment!
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