What makes the removal of the outposts in Judea and Samaria seem like a mission impossible for Israel's defense minister? Most will agree that they were put up illegally, and like all illegal structures in a country in which the rule of law is supposed to prevail, they should never have been put up in the first place, and they should be removed. But behind the government's intention to remove them lurks a ghost. It is the ghost of the uprooting of the settlers in Gush Katif. The Gush Katif settlers were there for many years and their settlements were perfectly legal - no one will contest that. And yet they were forcibly removed from their homes by orders of the Israeli government.
The removal of the settlers from their homes in Gaza was part of a policy, or if you like an ideology, that cannot be called by any other name but Judenrein Palestine. In other words, certain parts of western Palestine, or using the generally accepted terminology in Israel, certain parts of the Land of Israel, need to be cleared of all Jews. This is the declared policy of the Olmert government, and it presumably is part of Tzipi Livni's negotiating position in her talks with her Palestinian counterparts.
Can you blame many Israelis, including many who do not countenance the erection of illegal outposts, for feeling less than enthusiastic about the removal of the outposts, when their removal is seen as no more than a prelude to the forcible removal of the settlements in Judea and Samaria that were established legally, just as were the settlements in Gush Katif?
The concept of removing all Jews from a certain region is surely repugnant to any person not prepared to deny somebody's rights on the grounds of his ethnic or religious origin. It brings back the worst memories of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people in World War II. When it is applied to a part of the Land of Israel it is also contrary to the very foundations of Zionism, a movement based on the right of Jews to settle and live in their land, a right that has received international recognition.
And yet, not only the Olmert government's ministers, but many Israeli citizens who insist they are confirmed Zionists, and of course those who claim no such affiliation, all of liberal views, subscribe to this concept. Presumably this is because they consider this view to be part and parcel of making peace with the Palestinians. What kind of a peace can this be when nobody Jewish will be allowed to live within the borders of Israel's neighboring state?
The settlement policy condoned by successive Israeli governments and promoted by the settlers' movement over the years created a patchwork of Jewish settlements dispersed throughout Judea and Samaria, and not concentrated in settlement blocs. As a matter of fact, Gush Katif and Gush Etzion were the only large settlement blocs beyond the Green Line, and the former exists no more. The architect of this settlement strategy was none other than Ariel Sharon, who for years urged the settlers to occupy each "hilltop."
And it was he who, as prime minister, so graciously received Talia Sasson in his office when she presented him her report proving that many of the outposts he had encouraged and authorized were illegal, something he must have been well aware of. Both of them must have been smiling to themselves at this meeting.
It is generally agreed that Israel should not incorporate all of Judea and Samaria, with its large Arab population, within its borders. But does it necessarily follow that all areas not incorporated within Israel's borders need to be cleared of all Jews? The Palestinian negotiators currently engaged in the phantom negotiations with Israel's foreign minister are in any case not capable of making and carrying out any commitments.
But when and if serious Palestinian negotiators appear, it will have to be made clear to them that the continued presence of Jews on territory over which they will have sovereignty in the future, and the assurance of their safety, must be part of a durable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. An agreement that does not include such a provision will not be an agreement worthy of being called a peace agreement.
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