"Attorney General, do your job as you see fit," said Menachem Begin to Yitzhak Zamir in 1982, when Zamir approached the prime minister following the evacuation of Yamit to say that some of the demonstrators, outlaws who clashed with the security forces, should be put on trial. Zamir, who reported on the conversation this week during a conference on the ethical aspects of the disengagement, made note of Begin's position because for Begin, the law was above all.
That reminder is particularly important now, as the campaign against the disengagement plan goes into the streets following the exhaustion of all the political and parliamentary procedures validating its execution.
The leaders of the opposition to the plan to withdraw from Gush Katif and northern Samaria hurried to declare on Monday night after the vote on the referendum that they had moved their campaign to the street. They are not making any secret of their intentions: to foil forcefully the government's and Knesset's decisions, and to do so by clashing with the army and police, disrupting life in the country. They plan to flood Gush Katif and northern Samaria with tens of thousands of demonstrators to prevent the evacuation of families residing there. That challenge to the authority of the state, and to lawful decisions made by the legitimate authorities, is based on a claim to the right to protest and freedom of speech, presented as a legitimate step that a democratic society must tolerate.
In response to that, it must be said that the process of approving the disengagement was lengthy and full of opportunities for the opponents of the plan to express their position and try to tilt things their way.
On Monday, the day the Knesset rebuffed the proposal for a law to institute a referendum, the president of the Supreme Court announced that a panel of 11 justices will deliberate on the legality of the Evacuation Compensation Law. The rules of the democracy were used to their full extent on this issue: The government and Knesset approved the plan, and the Supreme Court will issue its opinion on the justice of the law.
True, there were some occasional grating moments in the political process: Sharon ignoring the desire of his party as expressed by a poll of the Likud rank and file on the disengagement plan, the way he ignored the instructions of the party's central committee to the Knesset faction to pass the referendum law, as well as his decision to fire the National Union ministers to make sure he had a majority for his plan. Those were inappropriate steps, and they played into the hands of his opponents, but they were marginal compared to the main process: the disengagement plan passed by formal, conventional procedures. There is no longer any justification to challenge its validity.
Legitimate procedures and a formal majority are not necessarily a guarantee of legitimate decisions. It can be argued that the disengagement plan is fundamentally immoral, so criminal and illegitimate that it is proper and perhaps a duty to oppose it outside the parliamentary arena. That, in effect, is the position taken by the settlement movement heads and some of the politicians on the right, who declare that the campaign against the plan has moved to the streets and do not hesitate to threaten bloodshed. To those it must be said that the very concept threatens to topple the foundations of government and the ability of Israeli society to function as a democratic country.
At the heart of the call to challenge the plan is an ideological opposition that rejects any concession of territory. This is a purely political position that has no moral superiority over any other position, including its exact opposite. A minority that holds that view wants to impose its will by force on the majority, as it was reflected in the votes of the government and the Knesset. That would undermine the rules of government and the state in the name of which they raise their rebellious banner: Their method would be a green light for every minority group in the land to break the law and rebel against the government in the name of some worldview.
This is a decisive moment, a test of the nation's law enforcement agencies. In his lecture on Monday night, Justice Yitzhak Zamir proposed the authorities begin using the legal instruments available to combat the ideological criminality.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now