A side issue: Nearly 3,000 people were stuck until last Friday next to the border station at Rafah, on the Egyptian side. Israel blocked their entry because of concern that terrorists were intending to blow up a large bomb - which they would bring in through a tunnel - at the crossing point. This information was "examined" for nearly three weeks, and it was only under pressure from Egypt, the United Nations and the U.S. administration that the Israel Defense Forces decided that the danger had passed.
Another side issue: For nearly six weeks, the IDF was engaged in an operation to seize control of areas in the Gaza Strip that were suspected of being launching sites for Qassam rockets aimed at communities in the western Negev. The tremendous destruction wrought by the army forces in Beit Hanun did not stop the firing of the Qassams. Then, abruptly, the IDF decided the danger had passed and it withdrew from Beit Hanun, while remaining, however, in the Jabalya refugee camp.
And one more small matter: It turns out, as was to be expected, that the fence that encloses the Gaza Strip is no longer capable of ensuring Israel's security. The Qassam rockets have made the fence less relevant, otherwise the IDF would not have had to enter Khan Yunis, Rafah and Jabalya, or close the border crossing station with Egypt.
There is no disputing that the IDF is doing something in the Gaza Strip. It's also a safe assumption that part of what it's doing is preventing terrorist attacks. But just as we understood that the security zone in Lebanon was not an effective solution, we can expect similar enlightenment to occur with regard to the situation in the Gaza Strip. It's only a matter of time, and of a few hundred more destroyed homes.
However, an illusion is developing before our very eyes and it would be best to dispel it immediately. It's called the "disengagement plan." It is supposedly the start of a political solution, it is supposedly the key to the defense of the western Negev, and it is supposedly the end of the Greater Israel ideology. It looks serious, there are dates for implementation and evacuation, there is already talk of compensation payments, some parties have even left the government over the plan, and a national unity government is about to be established in its honor. But what about security?
Let's say for a moment that the disengagement plan is already behind us, that we have gone through the nightmare scenarios of soldiers dragging settlers and vice versa. Will this mark the end of the Palestinians' motivation to continue the armed struggle, especially from Gaza, the bastion of the Hamas movement? Will this put an end to the Qassam launchings? Will there be no more Israeli incursions into Gaza? Although the head of the Shin Bet security service and the director of Military Intelligence are arguing about the depth of the terrorism barrel, neither of them has yet dared to address the real issue: the underlying motivation of terrorism. The evacuation of the settlers from the Gaza Strip is necessary to temper the motivation, because of all the good reasons that require settlements to be removed from land that is not theirs. This, though, is a necessary but not sufficient condition. The danger is that Prime Minister Sharon's zealousness for the unilateral character of the disengagement plan will leave Gaza, at best, a battlefield that is empty of Jewish civilians but not empty of Israeli occupation. One Qassam and Israel is back in. But without the "luxury" that Israel had (and has) in Lebanon, where there is a government and above it a Syrian government, and where there were not only those who could be blamed but also those to attack.
If the disengagement plan is the illusion of a political solution, the real danger lies in its unilateral character. We have learned how to get along with political illusions, but when we are told that it's possible to withdraw from Gaza, leaving behind chaos and destruction, without proposing a political plan, without examining how a million and a half people will earn a living, and without conducting negotiations with someone who will be able to assume responsibility and ensure that the only thing that's launched from the alleys of Gaza will be a silent song of praise, that is not only an insulting lieu, it's also dangerous to our health.
To disengage from Gaza peacefully requires disengaging from the slogan according to which there is no Palestinian partner. In its place we have to adopt the approach holding that Israel is not looking for a partner but for someone who will run things - someone who in a year's time, or less, will be ready to accept the keys. And without prior conditions, without empty discussions, without checking whether he's as pretty as Mohammed Dahlan or as charming as Yasser Arafat. After all, we're going for a unilateral plan, aren't we?
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