The Likud's last chance
The Likud ministers must not delude themselves. The decision they make on Sunday will not determine whether the pullout plan is carried out. All their decision will determine is whether it will be the Likud that carries out the disengagement project.
The Likud ministers must not delude themselves. The decision they make on Sunday will not determine whether the disengagement plan is carried out. Neither will it determine whether a certain number of settlements are evacuated in the coming year. All their decision will determine is whether it will be the Likud that carries out the disengagement project. All it will determine is whether the national camp will be the one to shape the long, painful process of ending the occupation.
The Likud ministers are supposed to understand this. The argument over the isolated settlements is over. The fate of the settlements in the Gaza Strip is sealed. The Israeli majority will no longer protect Kfar Darom and Netzarim. The Jewish community in Israel will not send its sons again and again into Rafah. The international Jewish community will no longer put up with the historic absurdity called Gush Katif. The 37 years of full occupation have reached an end.
The horrors photographed in the last few weeks in the Zeitoun neighborhood, the Philadelphi route and the Brazil refugee camp are the ending scenes. They portray an anachronistic reality that has played itself out.
So the real question facing the Likud government is not whether there will be an evacuation of settlements, but what is the extent of the evacuation? The real question facing Sharon's ministers is not whether Israel will withdraw, but how it will withdraw? Will the move of the beginning of the end of the occupation be a dangerous move of chaotic flight, or will it be a planned move of establishing a border for Israel?
This issue, and only this issue, is in the hands of the Likud ministers. This is the margin of choice reserved for them. If they say no on Sunday to the limited disengagement plan, they will in fact be saying yes to a broad withdrawal that will shortly be dictated to Israel.
If they say no to the orderly evacuation of a few pointless settlements, they will actually be saying yes to an international initiative that will coerce Israel to evacuate, immediately, dozens of settlements. If they sabotage the prime minister's attempt to bring about Israel's redefinition of its borders, they will be creating, with their own hands, a political down spiral that will make Israel lose control over the process of shaping its future.
In the previous decade the Likud made two fateful mistakes. At the beginning of the `90s, Yitzhak Shamir's Likud refused to negotiate seriously with the local Palestinian leadership. Thus it brought on Israel Arafat and the Oslo Accords.
At the end of the `90s, Netanyahu's Likud failed to carry out the Wye Agreement. Thus he led Israel to the Camp David and Taba agreements. On those two occasions the right wing was the one to hand the government over to the left. On those two occasions the dogmatic rejectionism in the Likud created what the Likudniks themselves see as a disastrous landslide in state affairs.
This coming Sunday, this suicidal pattern may repeat itself. If Benjamin Netanyahu and Limor Livnat do not adopt Sharon's plan, they will cause the expected withdrawal format to be Beilin's format.
From the start the disengagement plan was full of flaws. After the Likud referendum it became a veritable patchwork quilt. But the disengagement plan is not the main thing.
The disengagement idea is the main thing. This idea is vital not only because its alternatives are disastrous. It is vital also because it points in a direction. It defines a destination. It reflects the political desire and the political common sense of the new Israeli majority. Today it constitutes Israel's uniting ideological platform.
The Likud ministers must understand one simple fact. The train has left the station. There is no power in the world that can stop the disengagement engine. So the choice they have now is whether to get on board this powerful locomotive or be run over by it. They can try to influence the travel route from within, or be thrown by the wayside of the railway of history.