President Moshe Katsav wrote on Friday that "the pain of the settlers is the pain of the entire nation." It appears that the president knows only those members of the nation who share his opinion; Katsav also thinks we must "apologize" to the settlers in Gush Katif.
In an op-ed published in Yedioth Ahronoth, Katsav said that the settlers "have played a significant role in the achievements of the State of Israel," including U.S. President George W. Bush's agreement to "settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria."
Katsav said Bush also reached his conclusion thanks to the prayers of Jews in the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb. The president called on settlers to restrain themselves, but expressed much sympathy for the objectives of their struggle. He advised them to stay calm ahead of the struggle over the West Bank and said, "The values for which the residents of Judea and Samaria are struggling continue to be essential for the nation and the state."
These are untenable statements. The settlements play no role in the achievements of the state. On the contrary, the more they multiplied, the smaller the chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and the greater the danger to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The values of the settlers contradict human rights and liberty. If the pain of the settlers was indeed the pain of the "entire nation," many more Israelis would leave their homes and join them. The settlers and their supporters compared their march to the march on Washington led by Martin Luther King, but the march to Gush Katif was not meant to defend human rights, but rather to preserve an ideology that requires subjugation of others and contradicts cabinet and Knesset decisions. From this perspective, the march more closely resembled the march on Rome led by Mussolini. These are not the values of the "entire nation."
The settlers have tried to strengthen the tactic of an anticipated "trauma" to the state in the wake of the withdrawal from Gaza: The more "traumatic" it appears, the harder it will be for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. But the withdrawal is a limited tactical move; there is no reason to anticipate a historic trauma.
The Zionist movement and the State of Israel have more than once agreed to give up parts of the Land of Israel, and many Jewish communities have been evacuated, for a variety of reasons; besides isolated incidents such as the evacuation of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948, the incidents were not "traumatic." On the contrary: the Gaza Strip was evacuated after its capture in 1956, after which relative quiet prevailed along the border with Egypt for about 10 years. The evacuation of the Sinai, including Yamit, did not involve national trauma and allowed for the establishment of peace with Egypt. The withdrawal from Lebanon also didn't lead to any trauma, only relative quiet.
Those who refer to a "national trauma" also frequently warn of civil war and call to "rethink" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and explore some unknown revelation, a new definition of identity values. It's all unnecessary. The positions in this argument were all taken by December 1967. The geopolitical situation has changed; the practical possibility of exchanging land for peace has shrunk, but every once in a while it's fitting to mention that the land-for-peace principle is still correct. A look back at the years since the Six-Day War even allows, surprisingly, for some optimism.
The Arab countries have ended their refusal to recognize the existence of the State of Israel. Two of them signed peace agreements with Israel despite the three famous "no's" of the Khartoum Conference: No recognition, no negotiations, no peace. The Palestinians have also recognized Israel's existence, and Israel, for its part, also ceded some of its no's. Israel recognized the existence of a Palestinian nation with the PLO as its representative, and signed agreements with it, and has agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and broken a sacred taboo by agreeing to discuss splitting control of Jerusalem. And it is leaving Gaza.
Based on this, the settlements in the West Bank are conspicuous in being the primary obstacle to an agreement with the Palestinians, at least during this stage of the conflict. The withdrawal from Gaza involves many problems, but dismantling the settlements is likely to bring about a more rational management of the conflict. Here is the basis for hope: It doesn't pain everyone, Mr. President.
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