Beating the System

In return for quiet, Sharon is prepared to give the settlers everything, at the expense of the man in the street. Ahead of the next stage - before the expulsion of Shayetet 13 from the Atlit beach in favor of Ariel Pituach.

One road. Or more precisely, Road No. 1, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (and vice-versa), and in the middle, the segment that was annexed in practice - but not through a legal process - in the area of Latrun. Net result: This is what is set to remain in Israeli hands under the peace agreement with the Palestinian state, founded by President George W. Bush. This will be known as - in the language of the territories-for-peace formula of UN Resolution 242 from the fall of 1967 - "minor adjustments," an improvement on the margins of the principal of not acquiring territory by force.

All the rest is an exchange of territories. Give the Halutza dunes, take Gush Katif. The outcome is up to the Palestinians: If they wean themselves off terror and the dream of the refugees returning to Israel, every U.S. administration - both Republican and Democrat - will support their demand for a deal of dunam-for-dunam. In other words, they will persuade Israel, through means from the "re-evaluation" family of Ford-Kissinger 1975, that a refusal is unacceptable.

The settlements are destined to fail in achieving their declared objective - expanding the borders of Israel. An illusion that has faded, like the drying up of the Hula swamp and its reflooding - but with lots of blood. The result of the settlements will be a change in the internal composition of the state - a little more east of the Green Line, a little less in the Negev, a bank transfer from one account to another, to the West Bank from the south bank. For this were wasted dozens of years and billions of shekels, and thousands of casualties on both sides. Israel charged forward toward the wall, head first, and when it sustained bloody wounds, it was forced to cover its forehead, with a graft, with a piece of skin from its hind part.

Such will be the case when the agreement comes. Without it, in order for the withdrawal from Gaza to be recognized in the eyes of the world as complete, it cannot include an exchange of territories, not even in the narrow strip, for which there should be a return of the "northern boundary," Nissanit-Dugit-Alei Sinai. This time, the exchange of territories is also independent, one-sided: Take Katif, give Nitzanim, and to hell with the national planning - a faithful continuation of 30 years of Gush Emunim dictates.

The settlers have found a way to beat the Israeli system, to bypass the trap of the mortgage; you can ask their former neighbors in Ashkelon, from which a fair number are racing a few kilometers toward the line, what they think about this wise way of getting rich. In Gaza, like in the West Bank, the settlers received generous government assistance, grants and outright gifts and more, which are now incorporated in the value of their assets; yet they are demanding the compensation as if it all came out of their pockets, with the addition of mental anguish.

They can't argue that they weren't warned. They went to the settlements - some sooner and some later - armed with the precedent of the Sinai evacuation, which was already agreed to with Egypt in 1979, implemented in the green gardens of Neot Sinai a year later, and completed in 1982. They did indeed put their lives at risk, but so did the residents of Kiryat Shmona during the Katyusha years, without being able to sell their homes, and the Gilo residents during the sniping months, and even more so, the career soldiers who are forced to protect their families during their period of service; and unlike these groups, the settlers also intensified the risk to the citizens.

A Floridian because he will settle in the heart of the alligator swamps of the Everglades, a man of Pompeii because he will insist on living at the foot of a volcano, a zookeeper if he is foolish enough to take up residence in the lion's cage - none of them, on the basis of their sacred right to national land, will get beach villas and white sand if they be so good as to evacuate. Ariel Sharon, who opposed any withdrawal, first capitulated to Palestinian terror; and now, he is encouraging the gullible Israelis to capitulate to internal terror, to the settlers' threat to sabotage implementation of state decisions if their compensation isn't increased. After they have already received, or, at the very least, purchased with a big discount, a ticket to economy class, they are being entreated to suffice with an upgrade to business class; but they have their own agenda - only first class, otherwise the plane doesn't take off and the crew is beaten.

Because of the wickedness of the tight-fisted Americans, this upgrade will be financed by every Israeli, out of his own pocket. The relocation of 8,000 settlers will cost NIS 8 billion - NIS 1 million for every settler, man, woman and child; more than NIS 1,000 that will be deducted from every Israel, man, woman and child. In the next chapter - the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers in the West Bank - the multiples will correspond. The Christians call this method "robbing Peter to pay Paul." But what frightens the Israeli Paul, who is so easily squeezed?

In return for quiet, Sharon is prepared to give the settlers everything, at the expense of the man in the street. Ahead of the next stage - before the expulsion of Shayetet 13 from the Atlit beach in favor of Ariel Pituach, and the conversion of the Palmachim dunes into the Golden Apple neighborhood - it would be best to offer the evacuees available land, albeit occupied now for a different purpose, but pretty spacious and empty, and not far from Gaza: Sycamore Ranch.