Israel is like the FDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that sometimes finds out a long-standing medication causes heart attacks or strokes and orders it pulled from the shelves. The fact that the administration itself approved the drug is not held against it, as long as its eyes are open and it is capable of admitting its mistakes and fixing them before a catastrophe happens.
Settlement in the territories, once considered a wonder drug for creating a link between the State of Israel and the Land of Israel, has turned out to be a harmful drug. But historically it is wrong to say that the Likud and the right are entirely to blame for the settlements. The Israeli right was not a promoter of settlement. The Labor movement was.
While Mapai was hard at work "making the desert bloom," one could count the number of Herut settlements on the fingers of one hand. People used to poke fun at how the Labor movement was busy building and Herut was busy talking. So the truth of the matter is that after 1967, it was the left that laid the foundations for settlement in the territories.
People like Yitzhak Tabenkin, the legendary leader of the United Kibbutz Movement, the poet Natan Alterman and Labor politician Eliezer Livna were the pioneers of the Greater Land of Israel movement. Yisrael Galili, who chaired the ministerial committee for settlement affairs in the governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir, refused to endorse any political platform that made no mention of continued settlement.
In 1956, it was not Begin but Ben-Gurion who proclaimed the "third kingdom of Israel." After the Six-Day War, the Labor governments began settling the occupied territories. Beit El, Elkana, Kiryat Arba, Kedumim - these settlements, and others, were the handiwork of the Labor party. Today it may be hard to believe, but it was Shimon Peres, as Rabin's minister of defense, who gave in to Gush Emunim, turning its encampment in Sebastiya into an authorized settlement and creating the precedent of settlements wringing out government recognition by force.
Needless to say, when the Likud rose to power in 1977, dozens of settlements came into being, rubber-stamped before and after the fact, along with hundreds of unauthorized outposts. In the intermezzo between the governments of Peres-Shamir, Barak, the first Sharon administration, which included Labor, and today, illegal outposts continued to sprout in the territories.
No one was free of the State of Israel-Land of Israel bug that raged after the Six-Day War. Money poured into the territories, footing the bill for settlements, authorized and unauthorized, in the spirit of the pre-state days when the land was conquered "dunam by dunam." Illegal outposts were left standing, with a sly wink out of the corner of the eye, mainly to appease the Americans. Israel's governments over the years have always known exactly who, where and what was going on in the settlement ring.
After the Yom Kippur War, the establishment pushed the lie that "we're all guilty." But the public refused to be a partner to the blunders of a government blind to the fact that occupation has a short life, and that building settlements in Sinai and holding on to the Suez canal would not keep Egypt from trying to change things by force.
The same is true for the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. We're not all guilty. The guilty parties are the governments and leaders who thought that settlement and the use of force could create an irreversible situation. Years of terror, two intifadas, global pressure and American arm-twisting in particular had to happen for this unpredictable man, the father of the settlements, to change azimuth.
At first people thought that disengagement from Gaza was a trick. Then they said it was the first and last step in withdrawal from the territories. Now the picture has changed. The report submitted by Talia Sasson proves that Ariel Sharon has a more solid, long-term plan than anyone imagined.
Like a court lawyer who never asks a question to which he doesn't know the answer, Sharon knew exactly what Sasson's findings would be. Now he has put these 105 unauthorized outposts on the national agenda, as the next stage in the pullout from Gaza. In so doing, Sharon has made it clear that in a two-state solution to the conflict, Israel will be gone from Gaza. That dream has been pulled from the shelves.
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