The evacuation of the Gaza Strip actually began a few weeks ago, when the Israel Defense Forces began to evacuate military infrastructure. But from a psychological standpoint, it seems that the prime minister's issuance yesterday of a closure order for the Strip was the definitive moment. From this moment on, the IDF is entitled to evacuate anyone who is not a resident of the area, and any nonresident who continues to stay there is doing so illegally.
GOC Southern Command Dan Harel estimated that about 1,000 "visitors" are currently staying in the Strip, including some 150 who entered just in the last two days. All of those who arrived in recent weeks have presumably come to disrupt the evacuation, and their continued presence there will make it harder to execute the mission this August. Therefore, the IDF should go house to house over the next few days, identify those who need to be removed and do what needs to be done without hesitation.
Closing the Strip earlier than planned interferes with the residents' daily life to a certain extent, but the idea that ordinary life could continue unchanged a month before the evacuation was always ridiculous. Only those who hoped that the disengagement would not be implemented clung to routine at any price and continued to plant and sow, even registering their children for schools that will be closed next year. People like Nadia Matar, Moshe Feiglin, Noam Livnat, Uri Ariel and Effi Eitam, all of whom recently moved to Gush Katif, did not come to contribute to the routine of daily life, but to stir up the residents and organize resistance activities. The prime minister correctly assessed the risks inherent in this development and did what was necessary.
The settlers cannot continue to play a double game and expect empathy. They cannot build a tent city for opponents of the disengagement near the Strip, organize a march of thousands of people to Gush Katif, incite soldiers to disobey orders, and bring thousands of new residents, whom the IDF will then have to evacuate, into Gaza and then expect the government to sit with folded hands. The army and the police must focus on the main task, not waste their strength on nuisances. The complaints of the opposition's leadership, including the comparison of the Strip's closure to the siege of Jerusalem, to ghettoes and to concentration camps, are hardly unexpected.
These are exceptionally difficult days, with a high potential for violence and a constant fear of bloodshed. The earlier-than-planned closure of the Strip is not the cause of this, but the necessary cure. Gush Katif residents will find ways to host relatives, celebrate weddings and bar mitzvahs and manage their businesses, and it is hard to expect more than this a month before the evacuation.
Had it not been for the active intervention of disengagement opponents and the bear hug they gave Gush Katif residents, things would presumably have been done differently. The renewed attempts to block roads throughout the country, the fact that the ultra-Orthodox have joined the demonstrations, the Baba Baruch's enlistment in the struggle, the repeated seditious statements by some yeshiva heads - all of these demonstrate that the decision to close the Strip earlier than planned was correct, and may even have saved lives.