Ten days after the Likud's disengagement referendum, one gets the impression that the settlers have not yet fathomed the tragedy they brought down on themselves with their victory. All too pleased with themselves, their delegates in the Knesset building behave as if they owned the place. Drunk with power, their proxies sit in Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv's Metzudat Ze'ev as masters of all they survey. They're enjoying their fresh achievement to the hilt, and the knowledge that their power has never been greater. Never before have they had such a stranglehold on the neck of the government.
At first glance, the settlers have it right: they revolted against the prime minister, and succeeded. They provoked President Bush, and survived. They conspired against the Israeli majority, and escaped unpunished. Middle-of-the-road Israelis accepted the violent act perpetrated against them with a bizarre equanimity.
Nevertheless, if truth be told, the settlers are mistaken. Bitterly mistaken. The prime minister will not forget; President Bush will not forget. Neither the rancher from the Western Negev or the rancher from South Texas are the sort of people who submissively wipe such spit off their faces. But what is even more serious from the settlers' point of view is that the Israeli majority on which the settlers' fantasies were imposed last week, now understands exactly who they are dealing with. The majority understands that the relationship between it and the minority tyrannizing it is one of ruler and subject.
Ze'ev Hever, better known as Zambish, is the individual behind the Pyrrhic victory of the settlers. He is a serious person. He is a man of deeds, not words. Over the past month, this taciturn, bearded man waged one of the most impressive political campaigns ever seen in these parts. It was he who charted the route, he who raised the funds, he who mobilized the troops. He that closed in on his soulmate Arik until ultimately handing him a stinging defeat.
However, Hever evidently does not understand the full significance of his victory - which is is that the current war has been redefined since the events of May 2. On that day, the current war ceased to be a war on terror. It ceased to be a war for Israel's existence. On May 2, 2004, the war became a war of not-a-single-settlement. Not a single outpost. Until the last mobile home.
This new war, the Gush Katif War, has no soldiers. This new war, the isolated-settlements-war, has no volunteers. This war of occupation has no Mother Courage. The solid Israeli majority feels disgust for this war. The solid Israeli majority reviles this war. The solid Israeli majority will take no part in this war.
The words are harsh, but they have to be said: The young guys of Givati who were blown up with their armored personnel carrier on Tuesday in Gaza differ from all of their comrades who have been killed here since September 2000. They differ, because they are no longer the victims of extremist Islam. They are no longer the victims of Arafat's insanity. They are the victims of the settlement enterprise.
Ariel Sharon has no choice now. Nor does he have time. He must take courageous steps that will free him from the death grip of his former friend Zambish. He must adopt a dramatic initiative that will prove that he is not a puppet of the Yesha settlers council. He must take a step that will prove to the soldiers that they are not risking their lives for the Netzarim caprice. Sharon must redefine this war, as a righteous war. If he does not, he will find himself waging a lost war. A war against which Israelis will themselves rise up.
For a long time, there was justification for showing understanding toward the settlers. There was justification for talking with them, carrying on a dialogue with them. Not any more. The attempt of the organized settlement movement to force on the citizens of Israel a war that is not their war is unforgivable. The attempt of the settlers to turn the public into the cannon fodder of the Greater Land of Israel obliges a resolute response. Because after the disengagement referendum, one thing is clear: It is either Israelis or settlers.
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