One hundred thousand people will demonstrate their opposition to the disengagement plan today by forming a human chain linking the Gaza Strip settlement of Nisanit to Jerusalem's Western Wall. It is yet another expression of the struggle the right is waging to thwart the most important process offered up during the past 37 years to throw off the curse of the occupation.
This is now mostly a one-sided struggle: The majority of the public, which supports the prime minister's declared intentions to withdraw from Gaza and the northern West Bank, is sitting at home and is not making its voice heard. There is also no opposition to the ugly accusations of Judenrat and Kapo being thrown at Yonatan Basi, who agreed to head the disengagement administration.
The disengagement plan depends upon a holding action; there is no certainty it will be carried out. This not just because of the fear that Ariel Sharon does not intend to implement it, but rather because, even if that fear is invalid, the road to its implementation is packed with obstacles and traps that will be very difficult to overcome.
The popular opposition to evacuation involves tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people. This opposition is nourished by the belief that it is justified and even essential to fight against a process perceived to be disastrous. This opposition draws upon the inspiration of influential rabbis of significant status and upon the essentiality of the feeling of injustice stemming from the aggressive procedures via which the disengagement plan was approved.
Insurrectionist winds in the right-wing street are strengthened by the current makeup of the coalition and opposition in the Knesset, which have seemingly granted a seal of approval to the disengagement plan. While the practical preparations for the implementation of the withdrawal are in an advanced stage - some of them have even been completed - the political base necessary to carry out the plan is crumbling and there is not currently any potential stable replacement.
Another factor placing the feasibility of disengagement in doubt is its unilateral makeup. The defense establishment is convinced it is best to reach the evacuation stage in consultation and agreement with the Palestinian Authority. The Israel Defense Forces is, for all intents and purposes, striving to secure a cease-fire prior to the withdrawal. According to the army's estimates, the period of calm preceding the beginning of the disengagement, both on the Palestinian and the settler front, will allow its implementation. The chances that this will be the result even during a situation of continued armed violence are, however, much less optimistic.
It is the prime minister who is hindering, if not outright preventing, contacts and negotiations with the Palestinians in order to verify the chances for a cease-fire and the need to secure an agreement on the transfer of responsibility for evacuated territories.
Sharon continues to stick to his position that there is no partner for talks among the Palestinians and the logic behind the withdrawal initiative's very existence is based on the existence of a unilateral dictate.
Figures in Israel, Egypt and the United States are now attempting to formulate an equation that will bypass the obstacle placed by Sharon. If these efforts fail, it is doubtful the disengagement plan will be carried out.
Another roadblock is the timetable. An important part of the practical preparations have been completed. It is already possible to offer advance compensation payments to settlers who agree to be evacuated, to redeploy military forces in new positions around the Strip, to transfer military installations now in Gaza to new locations inside the Green Line and to present the Knesset with a bill dealing with the evacuation. Nevertheless, the first stage of withdrawal is slated to begin only in March 2005. This date was determined, to a large degree, based on the upcoming American presidential elections. In another eight months, Sharon will reevaluate the level of his declared responsibility to the disengagement plan in accordance with the decision made by American voters on who will take over in the White House.
Complicated dangers are waiting to ambush the implementation of the withdrawal plan. Rather than uniting political forces in order to ensure the success of the plan and rather than leading a mass movement in its support, Labor and Shinui are holding coalition negotiations revolving around matters of honor and prestige. And Yahad-Meretz is sitting on the balcony.
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