Some Haaretz readers didn't appreciate the link I made between the current atmosphere of animosity and incitement to violence, and the "human chain" organized by the settlers from Gush Katif to Jerusalem. It's true that the Shin Bet chief warned that there are several hundred Jews who would love to see Sharon dead. And yes, the defense minister did talk about possible acts of provocation on the Temple Mount that could snuff out the disengagement plan. "But how can you say such things about the settlers?" asks one of the readers. "The human chain was so civilized. It was the height of solidarity and brotherly love. Everything was done modestly, with respect for others and respect for the law. Tens of thousands of people sang `Hatikva' - without speeches, without politics, without inflammatory remarks."
Well, there is no question that compared to violent demonstrations and clashes with the army, the human chain was unusual: 130,000 people holding hands over a stretch of 90 kilometers - 56 miles - is an impressive sight. But it's scary to think about the organizational ability that went into it. The settlers can be sweet and lovey-dovey, but this knack for organization can also be mobilized to impose the will of a minority on the majority.
When Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip begins, if it ever does, the settlers will not be lovey-dovey toward the soldiers or the police officers. They will fight like the dickens for every last brick and clod of earth. They will do everything they can to wreck Sharon's plan, because they know that the pullout from 21 settlements will have a sequel - if not in Sharon's day, then in the days of whoever succeeds him.
Don't be fooled by the hype surrounding the human chain. When Uri Elizur, Netanyahu's former bureau chief, calls on the settlers to put up their dukes when the army moves in, and Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, secretary of the Yesha council, says they can whip up enough resistance to turn the IDF into mincemeat, you can be pretty sure they're not planning to go gently.
They are organizing at different levels to prepare for all types of resistance: all-out rebellion, provocative acts and brute force. They have fanatic rabbis who will pronounce violence kosher and issue rulings that authorize civil disobedience, thereby spawning a Jewish underground and paving the way for bloodshed.
The settlers' organizational skills, together with their financial resources and determination, produce a lethal cocktail. One of their first victims was Ariel Sharon, a clever SOB in his own right. While Sharon was sure his disengagement plan would win by a landslide in the Likud referendum, opponents of the plan set a trap and turned the tables on him. This is only a tiny sample of the power and organizational cunning of the settlers. To play it smart in this day and age, the rule is never assume anything.
Even a broad coalition is no insurance against an ambush in the Knesset that will shoot down the disengagement plan. The settlers have motivation, religious faith, ideology and a talent for self-persuasion. They have no qualms about laying down their lives for the cause - holding on to the Land of Israel forever. In short, they have everything they need to make up for their numerical disadvantage. They have what it takes for a minority to bring the majority to its knees.
It's no surprise that the government has not dismantled even one of the dozens of outposts that were supposed to come down in the wake of Israel's promises to President Bush. The powers that be are afraid that a bloody clash with the hilltop kids will sound the death knell for the evacuation of Gaza.
Time is not on the prime minister's side, although he has wasted a lot of it trying to broaden the government. On top of that, the target date for evacuation, set for the middle of next year, is too far away. True, disengagement from the Palestinians is not the same as withdrawal from Lebanon, which was done overnight in one fell swoop. But this interval of more than a year is too long. It gives the settlers time to cook up provocations that could send Sharon's plan down the drain. They have oodles of money (some of it the public's); they are crafty; and above all, they are pros at organizing.
So stop oohing and aahing over the brotherly love of the human chain. What they don't achieve with smiles, they are planning to achieve by bullying and violence.
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