Anyone who roams the paths of Israel, ambles along its streets or travels its roads receives the impression that his feet have been accorded the privilege of treading the earth of the birthplace of democracy. Masses of people are saying it with ribbons. Every antenna has something to say. An orange-ribboned Subaru stands bumper to bumper with a Mazda in blue and white. The former brandishes its opposition to the disengagement, and the latter declares support for it to all and sundry. An exemplar of an active civil society, a paradigm of civilized public debate. What a pity that a handful of extremists, rotten apples, are spoiling the mood (without regard to color) of the drivers they are immobilizing in traffic jams.
Indeed, according to a current survey by the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, no more than 3 percent of the public intends to participate actively in the opposition to the disengagement. The surveyors found that even among the settlers in the territories, only a small minority (11 percent) are planning to go to the Gaza Strip to hinder the evacuation. However, the sea of orange ribbons - four out of every 10 Israelis identify with them - is further proof that democracy is no guarantee of wisdom. What goes through the mind of an ordinary citizen from Tel Aviv, Hadera or Tiberias as he ties the orange ribbon to his antenna? Does he not engage in any reckoning about what will happen on the morning after the fulfillment of his wish to eliminate the disengagement plan?
True, the plan is no cause for celebration in the peace camp. Yours truly has often enumerated the flaws in it and has warned that it was born in order to destroy the United States' "road map." However, there is something worse than carrying out the plan - and that is not carrying it out. Thwarting it, for the whole world to see, is tantamount to negating any possibility for peace, because a state that is not prepared to bear the pain of giving up the Gaza Strip will most certainly refuse to experience the tortures of partitioning the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The choice of orange is a choice of a national-religious theocracy, the perpetuation of the occupation, the violent conflict, an apartheid regime, defiance of the United States and the nations of the world, the isolation of Israel and economic crisis. In addition to all of these, the choice of orange, after the plan won the government's approval and the Knesset's blessing, is a vote of no-confidence in Israeli democracy.
According to the Truman Institute survey, every second Jewish settler in the territories does not recognize the authority of these elected institutions to make decisions concerning the evacuation of settlements - that is, to determine the borders of the state. The same survey has found nearly 40 percent of Israelis are opposed to the disengagement has also found that 62 percent of that public supports the dismantling of the settlements in the territories in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. You need to be an exceedingly besotted disciple of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to believe that the exit from Netzarim brings the evacuation of Kiryat Arba or the end of the conflict any closer. Even Dov Weissglas, the prime minister's closest adviser, has suggested preserving this dream in formaldehyde.
But the "blue-whites," the majority who support the disengagement, are not concerned about the unilateral nature of the withdrawal. As far as they are concerned, it is enough that we get out of Gaza already and show those "oranges" that they aren't the bosses here. The outposts, the confiscations of land, the demolitions of houses and of course the peace negotiations can wait. Sharon most certainly looks out of his limousine at their ribbons and has a good laugh. With their help, in a month or two, he too will tie a ribbon to his antenna. An orange ribbon.
Meanwhile, the Labor ministers, the natural representatives of the "blue-whites," have fallen asleep on their watch on Sharon. They are not lifting a finger to compel the prime minister to strengthen the standing of the pragmatic partners in the territories, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. None of them dares warn of the plot to turn the evacuation of the settlements in the Gaza Strip into an exemplar of Palestinian failure, a paradigm of an Israeli trauma, a model of withdrawal first, the end of peace.
No one is flying the ribbon that is most suited to the disengagement plan - the black ribbon - as a warning about the transformation of "Gaza first" into the end of peace.
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