Sde Boaz outpost
Here to stay, thanks to Gaza. An outpost near the West Bank settlement of Neve Daniel. Photo by Michael Fattal
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A war needs no imagination. We see it on television, know the soldiers and the dead. The tension we feel is real, the sirens are real, and the destruction is measured in money. Peace, on the other hand, requires a great deal of imagination and even the ability to dream. A war mobilizes and unifies, its pretexts are always justified, and if there are no just pretexts, they are invented. Peace splits and fragments. In war there is a winner and a loser. Peace is a compromise that gives rise to discomfort. Peace is never “just.” Everybody loses in it, and its profits always seem to be marginal.

Many people still mourn the loss of Sinai in exchange for peace, after the great victory in the Yom Kippur War. It is the same with Gaza. How we lost in the 2005 withdrawal without gaining the West Bank in exchange. But now, the story is different. We need no longer search for an image of victory. Even if we do not succeed in demolishing all the tunnels and rockets continue to be buried underground, awaiting their launch, victory is already in our hands. Maybe not in Gaza, but certainly in the West Bank. In Greater Israel. As happened during the withdrawal from Gaza, the system of connected vessels has returned to the psyche — a system according to which the bigger the threat Gaza poses, the more Israeli control of the West Bank is assured. The more we struggle with Hamas, the more the threat of withdrawal from “Judea and Samaria” recedes.

Ariel Sharon believed that the withdrawal from Gaza would free Israel from the obligation of negotiating over the West Bank. He believed that the Gaza withdrawal would be the “withdrawal from the territories” that Israel would sacrifice on the altar of the continued occupation. He was wrong. In this interconnected system, withdrawing from only one part could not bring anything but disaster. But paradoxically, if Gaza had become a perfect example of a thriving and prosperous mini-state, free of rockets and terrorism, Israel would have had a hard time claiming convincingly that withdrawal from the West Bank constituted a security threat.

Fortunately for the devotees of Greater Israel, the withdrawal from Gaza and its takeover by Hamas two years later gave them the perfect excuse to hold onto the West Bank and never let it go. There will never again be any need for messianic ideology or a divine promise. Gaza provided all the “right” excuses: Look at Gaza and you will know what not to do in the West Bank. In the name of security and because of the rockets, we must hold on to the West Bank, to East Jerusalem, to settle on every inch. Anyone who hesitated, anyone who asked questions, was referred to the horrific show that took place in Gaza. The “trauma of being uprooted” provided its own cure. A defensive shield against peace.

With the blink of an eye that trauma was put to an unbearable test. The sounds of peace-mongering brought to mind threatening noises from the past. Once more withdrawal was being discussed. Once again those accursed maps, the Jordan Valley inside or out, who would remain in the settlement blocs and which were destined for destruction. The Americans were coming again, Mahmoud Abbas agreed to talk, and the shadow of peace began to fire the imagination. Look, even Hamas was reconciling with Fatah, the United States was willing to cooperate with the Palestinian unity government, Europe was standing in line with donations, and the trauma of Gaza was about to dissipate. But then, three boys were kidnapped and murdered. Their murderers had not yet been found. Hamas declared loudly that it was not responsible. But that no longer mattered. A few days later, Jewish murderers burned Mohammed Abu Khdeir to death. Once again — equality.

And then came the war. A bit late, because if the war had begun before the main peace talks, there would have been no need to go through the torture of the talks. But even a bit late is still fine.

Gaza sealed the fate of the West Bank. If before, it had been possible to fantasize about some sort of peace, if for a second the settlers missed a slight beat because of the talks, now they can relax. Because who would dare mention the word “withdrawal” now? Who would agree to make himself a laughingstock by calling for peace talks? What a wonderful victory. We love you, Gaza.