Some 800 members of the Judea and Samaria District police force and around 700 soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command are supposed to evacuate the illegal outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar tomorrow.
Major General Moshe Kaplinski, the head of the Central Command, met this week in Netanya with the senior officers of his fiefdom, headed by the police's district commander, Major General Shahar Ayalon, and the IDF division commander, Brigadier General Gadi Eisencott, for a briefing on the lessons of the previous evacuations and the preparations for the coming ones - all part of "Exposed Hill," the codename for the operation.
When the evacuation takes them by surprise, said one of the officers, all it takes is a strong kick to the shack because the settlers can indeed come back and grab the hilltops, but not for long. But in the absence of a surprise, dozens of settlers are expected to back up their friends and comrades in the region, which is considered one of the strongholds of the extremists in the territories - Yitzhar, Itamar, Tapuah.
So far, those evacuated from the outpost have been tenacious and have refused to leave peacefully, but they haven't been violent, and are preparing for public and legal campaigns. For every police camera there to document crimes, the settlers provided a camera of their own to document police failures - like excessive force and missing identification badges. This doesn't mean the coming evacuations won't be more vehement.
The evacuation of the settlements, a move that Ariel Sharon tried to delay for as long as he could until surrendering last week in Washington, shows that the prime minister is sinking deeper into a Bermuda Triangle whose three points are Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, President George W. Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu. Sharon's political about face (anyone who believed him last year would have spent the last of their money on land in Netzarim) is meant to persuade Mazuz that in the middle of the river one shouldn't change horses, messiahs' donkeys or mules carrying explosives - all in the eyes of the decider.
In this context "Mazuz" is a collective term referring to the attorney general, Shinui (which holds the justice ministry portfolio), the Supreme Court (which can intervene if the attorney general decides to close the case), and the other standard-bearers of the law ready to put the standard in storage at least until the withdrawal is over - because only crooks can evict the settlers. If this analysis is correct, the Sharon investigations and the draft indictment against him have already done their job; and when peace comes and Sharon asks for the Nobel Prize, he'll have to give Edna Arbel a cut of the prize money.
Sharon's moves have bumped into counter-moves by politicians no less wily than him - Bush and Netanyahu, who are both focused on their ambitions to be the next prime minister/president. Bush brought a new level of ambiguity into the marketplace of political currency when he spoke of recognizing the reality of large, densely populated areas, without using the word "the," as in the old dispute over an Israeli withdrawal from "territories" or "the territories."
Bush's spokesman had reservations about the list of settlements that Sharon announced in Israel as safe from evacuation and hinted that in a final peace agreement that included a territorial exchange with the Palestinians, not all would remain under Israeli control. The settlement blocs will compete - Ariel against Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion against Ma'aleh Adumim against the Binyamin district - and some will be evacuated and others will go through to the Final Four.
Bush also shackled Sharon to a timetable for evacuating the outposts, under the supervision of Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, whose job will be to do to Sharon what Sam Lewis did to Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir in the 1970s and 1980s, while Sharon mocked them for it. Sharon is the D-9 bulldozer driver, a "Dubi" in IDF slang, who can with the same machine and effort either lay the groundwork for a new settlement or demolish one; and Kurtzer will be the foreman for the demolitions.
Netanyahu's announcement of support for the evacuation is very bad news for Sharon. The message to Mazuz and Bush is simple: An indictment against the prime minister will not obstruct the political process because the next in line is committed to it. The horse can be changed, because the fresh one, waiting for the change, will continue the work of the predecessor. To implement Sharon's plan, there's no need for Sharon.
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