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The decision taken by the Israeli government at 7:51 P.M. on June 6, 2004, is not an inspiring one. It contains no lofty language, no festive promises, no vision. It is a dry and practical government decision, almost bureaucratic, and its unadorned Hebrew is reminiscent of the unadorned Hebrew of the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

However, the statement that emerges from this scrawny decision is a comprehensive statement. An unequivocal statement. Despite all the efforts of the Likud chiefs to emasculate it, the decision remains a powerful one, and this powerful decision says evacuation. In a clear voice it says evacuation. Genuine evacuation. Practical evacuation. Evacuation as a supreme national goal.

The June 6 decision includes a number of important points: The statement that declares that there will be no Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip in any future final settlement is important. The statement that specifically names the settlements designated for evacuation is important. The fact that the term "evacuation" itself appears in the wording of the decision almost 20 times is important.

However, what is more important than all these verbal statements is the practical spirit of the decision - that it translates the abstract concept of evacuation into a series of instructions for action, and that it establishes a comprehensive organizational network that is responsible for carrying out those instructions. These practical instructions and this operational mechanism are what make the decision a serious one. They are what prove that there is a true intention behind it.

There is another point. In Article B (7) of its decision, the Israeli government said this week that in the future it will consider evacuating the area of the Philadelphi route. "If and when conditions are created for evacuating this area," says the version that was passed, "Israel will be ready to examine the possibility of building a seaport and an airport in the Gaza Strip, subject to arrangements that will be decided with the State of Israel."

This statement is of dramatic importance. It makes the amended disengagement plan more daring than the old disengagement plan, which was rejected by the registered Likud voters in the recent referendum. It is true that everything is still conditional, that everything is subject to future government decisions. But now the strategic goal is no longer to establish a large Palestinian holding pen on the shores of the Mediterranean. Now the strategic goal is to enable the Gaza Strip to exist as a free political unit separate from Israel, open to the world and responsible for its fate.

For these reasons, the fire breathed on the government decision this week by some of the senior members of the anachronistic left was out of place. This was not the fire-breathing of live dragons, but that of bitter dinosaurs whose time has passed, because any attempt to claim that the disengagement document of the Sharon government is not an historic document is a vain attempt. It is a more historic document that any other that has been formulated here since the peace treaty with Egypt.

It is true that the government may still collapse. The extreme right is still liable to torpedo the 11th-hour attempt to save Israel from the occupation. Ariel Sharon is liable to dissipate politically even before he carries out the existential mission that he has taken upon himself. However, whatever happens, the decision taken by the Likud government this week is a formative one. It places Israel on a political path from which there is no return. It begins a process that will be stronger than all its opponents, and stronger than its initiators as well.

It is no coincidence that the June 6 decision could have been written by Yitzhak Rabin, because what this decision expresses is the belated victory of Rabin's spirit - Israel's return to the tough, sober and cruel dovishness of Yitzhak Rabin. However, what is amazing about this decision is that it goes far beyond what Rabin himself was prepared to do. It evacuates settlements before an agreement. It allows the redeemed Palestinian territory to live entirely separate from Israel. It takes Rabin's logic to places where Rabin himself never dared to go.

So despite the fact that the language of the decision passed this week is in fact dry, it contains a profound element of poetic justice. It also contains a profound element of hope. It proves that the Israeli body politic has learned lessons from everything that it has undergone during the past 12 years. It proves that Israel has matured, ripened and learned to face the situation in which it finds itself. The question that still remains is whether it will have the strength to change this situation. Whether it will have enough strength to return to itself.