The State of Yesha heads to battle
All this government has to do is take a deep breath for the next 10 months, chase after people with freeze orders and wait until the illness passes. It won't have to destroy one house or remove one illegal outpost, nor even stop the paving of roads to future settlements.
The winter festivities are starting. Junctions will be closed, orders will be torn up and scattered to the winds, building inspectors will get beaten up and children's choirs will appear at community centers and belt out "we are here."
Thus, the heads of the Yesha settlement government will excoriate the evil rulers. On the other side of the border, in the State of Israel, the defense minister will declare, "we will not allow," and the prime minister will bang on the table and announce that he does not intend to meet with law-breakers.
Ostensibly, this is a fearsome state, with an army and police, and the beginnings of hesitant American praise. All this government has to do is take a deep breath for the next 10 months, chase after people with freeze orders and wait until the illness passes. It won't have to destroy one house or remove one illegal outpost, nor even stop the paving of roads to future settlements. It only has to stop the peace process for 10 months, plain and simple.
The government understands this, the settlers know the name of the game and so do the Palestinians and the Americans. No peace process will emerge from the freeze, because nothing in the political reality has changed. In Israel the government is not interested in it; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is still deliberating whether to continue being angry, whether to be the next Palestinian president or go home and write another memoir; Washington is busy with the war in Vietnam - er, Afghanistan; and all that remains of the Quartet is an elegant minuet that Europe is dancing on the uneven floor of the Middle East.
Suffice it to hear one of the main arguments of the settlers to realize that the this is not a historic political turning point, but rather a bunch of kibbitzers arguing around a backgammon board.
"What happens if in eight months a political process begins? They'll demand that Bibi freeze construction again," a leader of the settler state said. That is a strategic danger that truly panics them. But they agree there's no chance any process will begin immediately. The real threat in their minds is that at the last minute, right before they deliver a knockout punch to Bibi, he will deliver them a body-blow.
The concern on the west side of the Green Line should be different - that the construction freeze will become the ultimate symbol of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and the United States, of the terrible sacrifice for which nothing real was given in exchange; that it will be impossible to ask such a sacrifice again from Israel.
In 10 months, when the bubble bursts, the High Holidays will be around the corner and the Palestinian Authority will or will not have Abbas and perhaps a united government with Hamas. Netanyahu and the Yesha government will be able to ridicule and celebrate.
No one will be able to demand further "concessions," because such a "trauma" must not happen again. Therefore this pseudo-trauma must be magnified. As Rabbi Moshe Levinger shouted to the settlers who were to be evacuated from the Sebastia train station in the mid-1970s, "Rend your clothing" - as Jewish mourners do.
The moratorium on construction must be presented immediately as no less than a national disaster, a real holocaust, so that 10 months from now no one will ever consider demanding that the freeze continue. Should, heaven forfend, a peace process begin, this way the State of Israel will know that it is facing off against the entire settler state.
The show this time has to be bigger than the one for the disengagement from Gaza. After all, that disengagement was to have assured that there would be no more withdrawals. And suddenly - treachery. Although life this time is easier, because the settlers are not going up against Ariel Sharon or Menachem Begin; it is just Netanyahu, the ball that was meant to be pushed around.
But his logic is not that of the settlers. All he wants is to show, particularly to the Americans and generally to the world, that Israel is the one that made the sacrifice.
The settlers, in contrast, see every day of the freeze as a national defeat. Their war is not against the Americans or the Palestinians. It's a matter of them or the government of Israel. It is a struggle for the national consciousness, as they wrote in a document of principles of "the renewed Yesha" (as opposed to the old Yesha, which "lost" Gaza).
No more chances must be taken in such a struggle, and the settlers are taking none. This state has 300,000 citizens, and those who want a peace process will have to negotiate with its leaders, not with the Palestinians or Americans.