I can't figure out if the Israel Defense Forces computer that names military operations has a wicked sense of humor, or it's just a dumb machine. When it cranks out the code name "Shevet Ahim" ("Brothers Sit Together") for the Gush Katif pullout, it must be either joking or plain stupid.
In any event, Haaretz correspondent Amos Harel says the army is currently discussing alternative code names. Why is that? Because right-wing MKs have complained that the chosen name is cynical and inappropriate. Their taste probably runs more to codes like "Death to Sharon" or "Disobey Today" or "Evacuation Equals Holocaust."
Luckily for us, according to the same news item, the IDF Education Corps will soon be distributing a "disengagement kit" to the soldiers. Israel's military psychologists and behavioral scientists have been working hard as the pullout draws near. There are no happy clashes, as we've seen often enough on the TV screen, and no shortage of thugs prepared to rough up anyone who represents authority. So it doesn't seem very likely that the settlers will all lie down on the couch and let the soldiers and police officers play shrink.
I'm not knocking the army's psychological preparations for the difficult mission that lies ahead. But first a critical distinction must be made between the Gaza settlers, who are in for a real trauma but know deep down that their fate is sealed, and the fanatics - the rabbis, Kahane groupies and assorted toughs - who see the pullout as a cause worth dying for.
For the settlers, the pain is personal, although quite a few recognize that the interests of the state come first, and peace takes precedence over war. They will be financially compensated, and from what I have been told, many of them are already negotiating for alternative housing in Israel proper. The problem is the fanatics, who are trying to hitch a ride on their backs and force them to resist, even at the cost of bloodshed.
The right-wing extremists who took part in the gathering at the Binyanei Haooma convention center in Jerusalem last Thursday painted a terrifying spectacle of civil disobedience. "Arik is inflicting a holocaust on us," they cried. "We have more guns, arms and trained fighters than the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. We are not going to hand ourselves over to the enemy. We refuse to obey any order that will wreak havoc and destruction."
Rabbis blew the shofar, and the audience swore in unison to fight "the evil decree." Israel was the ghetto, the tyrant and bitter foe. Stark raving mad, the whole lot of them.
There is no split down the middle in this country. If there is a rift, it's between a handful of fanatics and the Israeli majority. The findings of five major polling institutes published over the weekend produced an unequivocal result: 70 percent of the population supports disengagement. Gaza's 7,500 settlers can't ignore figures like that. Even if they protest during the pullout, and hang on to the walls of their homes for dear life together with their wives and children, they deserve some understanding. But when it comes to those who are hitching a ride on them, Israel must be tough.
According to data amassed by the IDF, some hoodlum types are trickling into Gush Katif and registering as residents. Their ultimate goal is to flood the areas slated for evacuation with thousands of people. In the interim, they plan to riot in the streets and clog intersections all over the country to create an atmosphere of civil war. Gush Katif will soon be declared a closed military zone. But it could be "too little, too late."
Mofaz, as chief of staff, was against Ehud Barak's decision to withdraw IDF troops from Lebanon in 24 hours. Now he's trying to follow his lead: He wants the pullout to be pushed up from July to March.
Vacating Gaza within four weeks is the way to go, and here's why: (a) It will keep the Palestinians from thinking that Israel is stalling, which could trigger a new round of terror; (b) It will keep Syria, which apparently masterminded the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, from ordering more attacks, thereby provoking Israel into retaliation against the Palestinian Authority; and (c) It won't give the Greater Israel loonies a chance to fan the flames and set the region ablaze.
If you've decided to bring down the ax - which Sharon and Mofaz have - better to do it in one fell swoop. Foot-dragging is of the devil.
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