The June Crash

When there is no Israeli internalization of the fact that the Gazan occupation is over and when there is no international recognition of the fact that the occupation of Gaza is over, the occupation of Gaza is not over.

Few noticed it, but Wednesday, December 28, 2005, was an historic day. That day, the third day of Hanukkah, at 18:00, the IDF began shelling the dunes of northern Gaza. The pointless artillery fire was given a colorful name: Blue Skies. The purpose of Blue Skies was to respond to the increasing Qassam rocket fire from liberated Gaza and to guarantee peace for Sderot, peace for Ashkelon and peace for the western Negev. Operation Blue Skies had no military value. Just as Maj. Gen. Dr. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, number 33 on the Knesset Kadima list, said before the disengagement, there is no military or technological response to rocket fire from inside liberated Palestinian territories. Nor will there be any response to it in the coming year or coming decade. However, Operation Blue Skies had enormous symbolic value. It expressed the fact that the disengagement had passed away. Four months after Sharon's government tried to disengage from Gaza, it disengaged from the disengagement. It put an end to the disengagement.

In Tel Aviv, nobody noticed. Nobody wanted to notice. The need to believe that Israel could take its fate into its own hands overcame any piece of information coming in from the ground. The need to believe that Israel knew how to reach the end of the occupation even without a Palestinian partner was stronger than any red light that went on. And there were elections to win. There was a feast and prosperity to celebrate. There was Sharon's collapse. Thus nobody wanted to notice that the minute Israel felt obligated - justifiably or not - to protect the safety of its citizens by harming the limited Palestinian autonomy in Gaza, it was, in effect, canceling the disengagement. Nobody wanted to understand that the minute Israel declares it cannot maintain its own sovereignty without defacing the neighboring sovereignty, the symbiosis continues. The cancerous cells continue to reproduce. There is no end to the occupation, no "we're here, they're there." There is no peace, no security, no stability. There is nothing but the stubborn Tel Avivian illusion that believes it is possible to isolate the prosperity of the "white city" from all that surrounds it and to disconnect Israel from history and the conflict and the Middle Eastern horror.

Thus, the June crash shouldn't surprise anyone. The June crash was to be expected. Just as the killing of innocent civilians and the attack on Israel inside the Green Line were the inevitable result of the Blue Skies reality; just as the loss of Israeli deterrence and the unwise use of Israeli force are the direct result of the inability to grant the disengagement any political dimension. When there is no Israeli internalization of the fact that the Gazan occupation is over and when there is no international recognition of the fact that the occupation of Gaza is over, the occupation of Gaza is not over. And when the occupation is not over, the violence - here and there - is inevitable. When there is no recognized border, there is no choice for stability.

It can be argued that the disengagement was correct and it can be argued it was incorrect. It can be argued the disengagement was vital and it can be argued it was stupid. However, it is impossible to undertake such a dramatic step as the disengagement without understanding its inherent logic. That logic is not the logic of withdrawal alone, but the logic of building a border. That logic is not the logic of escape and illusion but the logic of creating a two-state reality even in the absence of a peace agreement between two states.

If the internal situation in the Palestinian entity does not facilitate such a reality, this must be admitted - instead of ignored by sticking one's head in the sand. However, if the Palestinian entity is mature and responsible enough, Israel should treat it as a quasi-state. Israel must grant Palestinian Gaza the rights of a near-state and it must demand from it the behavior of a near-state. It must make it clear to the Palestinians and to itself that a border is a border. Sovereignty is sovereignty. Partition of the country is partition of the country and not perpetual and violent chaos. On October 24, 2003, a terrorist infiltrated the Netzarim military fort and killed three soldiers, two female and one male. That violent and traumatic incident made tangible the pointlessness of staying in Netzarim and contributed to its dismantlement. The current violence is no less traumatic. However, it should not lead to despair nor acts of despair. It must make clear to us all that we must reshape the policy of Israel regarding Gaza in particular and Palestine in general. It must make clear to all of us that without conceptual and political clarity the disengagement will disintegrate and convergence will not succeed.