Let Them Disengage Already

If the architects of disengagement thought they would need to deal with only a small group of religious militants, they are liable to discover that they made a big mistake.

"You are surely troubled by questions pertaining to departure, loss, adjustment, faith, disappointment, anger, hope, fear, anxiety, identification; all this in addition to difficult dilemmas related to issues such as democracy, decision making, acceptance, methods of protest, obedience, leadership." These are all of the problems and worries the Education Ministry promises to help with via its hot line for the "dear children of Gush Katif and northern Samaria, schoolchildren and parents."

What a treasure. An answer for each and every question. Just pick up your telephone, call and you'll get an answer. The best and the brightest minds in the ministry are at your service. For example, I am 12 years old and my parents have still not come to visit me in jail. Can you advise me how I can best adjust to my new circumstances? I am in third grade and my father tells me that soon we will go to live in a tent next to our neighbors. My father is always complaining about how these neighbors snore very loudly. My question is whether I can receive a separate tent, and my mother asks if we can later receive compensation for the tent?

These questions and many others will not be asked. Because why should these children and their parents believe the disengagement will really take place, and that in less than 70 days they will no longer live in exile in Gaza and will move to the land of Israel? And they are right.

As the "determining date" (the term used in the Evacuation Compensation Law) draws nearer, it turns out that the disengagement is not being delayed by the blocked highways, by the sugar that destroyed bulldozer engines or by the glue that plugged the locks of government offices. Rather, this delay seems to be the result of a bureaucratic failure. There is almost no institution in the northern Negev that can report about an organized plan of absorption. Employment bureaus, schools and contractors building infrastructure on kibbutzim cannot say for how many people the infrastructure is planned, how many pupils will arrive and how many teachers will be needed. The pictures from the defense minister's miserable meeting with the settlers of northern Samaria spoke for themselves. None of those present at the meeting knew where they would be living two months from now, or where their children would go to school. And these are people who are dying to be evacuated, who would like to take advantage of the summer to prepare their new home.

"What's the big hurry? Perhaps there won't even be a disengagement. And how do you think I'm going to find you work here? Look how many unemployed workers are registered with me." This is the answer a resident of Kadim received when she tried to look into employment possibilities in the Afula area.

"Why are they dragging out this disengagement until August," she says despairingly. "Why didn't they allow us to leave earlier? Now I can't even walk around my community in peace. Some of the neighbors call me a traitor, some say there won't be a disengagement, and when I try to collect compensation, they give me the runaround, sending me to fill out another form and another form."

A year has passed since the government approved a decision to begin preparations for evacuating settlements. Four months have passed since the Evacuation Compensation Law was passed. Even in an orderly country, without disputes, without the need to receive approvals from rabbis and from those with a monopoly on patriotism, it is difficult to imagine the orderly transfer of citizens in such a short time span. This applies even more to a state that is still accustomed to fixing things with a wire and piece of cardboard. The attempt to uproot, transfer, absorb, provide work and educate within two months is similar to the Education Ministry's pretension to provide a response to all of the pains of the pupils and their parents.

If the architects of disengagement thought they would need to deal with only a small group of religious militants, they are liable to discover that they made a big mistake. They are now liable to have to deal with "regular people" - those who have wanted to leave for years but were stuck, those for whom the method of "trust me" no longer speaks to their hearts.

There is also something graver. The credit the prime minister received, especially from the left, is running out. The swallowing of saliva and gnashing of teeth in the face of the huge sums, the allocations to religious parties, the payments to Shinui, the muteness vis-a-vis the outpost settlements, the Labor Party's joining of the government, and even the exultation about Sharon's ideological transformation - they all begin to appear like a bad bargain when on one side the prime minister stands speaking in a thunderous voice, and on the other side the government and officials stand with their own agendas.