Likud Rebels' Visit to Their Colleagues in Gush Katif Draws Scant Interest

In the garden of his temporary home in the settlement of Gadid in the heart of the Gaza Strip sat MK Yuli Edelstein, one of the best mannered and most urbane of the Likud rebels. He left his permanent home in Gush Etzion about two months ago, exchanging one settlement for another. He shares the tiny and dilapidated house with several obscure youths from West Bank settlements. Yesterday he was deliberating whether he would leave today because of the evacuation order, or wait for the soldiers. He is the last one who would raise a fist but, if he goes before all the action, what is the point of having come?

Edelstein told a group of visiting Likud MKs how a group of young Kahane supporters had blocked the gate to the soldiers yesterday morning. A tired, elderly Gadid resident was arguing with them, begging them to let the soldiers in so that they could deliver the orders. The elderly man said he was on the verge of a heart attack and had to see the order so that he could begin to pack. They refused.

This man is typical of many, Edelstein said. People had to be evicted to have the impetus to leave. Only then would the penny drop. In some sense, the decision of the settlement heads to shut the gate had turned the residents of the settlements into hostages.

The politicians descended upon Gush Katif on August 15 in their masses. Most of them were Likud "rebels," those who had time and again tried to oppose disengagement and who now went from one settlement to the next, amazed that the media were not showing any interest in them. The cameras were trained instead on the rows of orange-clad demonstrators opposite the dark uniforms, each side playing its expected role, without much action. They "shot" the crying, shouting, songs and slogans of the settlers, the mothers dragging young kids mercilessly in the boiling sun, the burning tires - all the expected scenes that have already become almost routine.

Also well-worn was last night's TV appearance by Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately after Ariel Sharon, on Channel 2. Once again the recalcitrant former finance minister presented his apocalyptic view of the day after disengagement. This is the old Bibi, the Bibi of the streets and marketplaces after a terror attack. He admits that the die is cast but still he rushes to the first available TV studio to grab a few votes from Likud leadership contender Uzi Landau. The latter spent yesterday in Gush Katif. Not Netanyahu.

Back in the Gush, the Likud MKs went to see one of the veteran farmers at Ganei Tal, Shlomo Wersteil. Not a single item has been removed from its place in his home. He doesn't raise his voice but also doesn't blush when mentioning how he is reminded of the Holocaust. "A solution?" he asks. "What does that remind you of?" There is no other association, he says. He talks of his aged parents who were in Auschwitz and had told him that "Jews will never exile Jews."

Then the MKs paid a surprise visit to the Ganei Tal home of MK Zvi Hendler. Hendler was one of the founders of this Gaza Strip settlement. Two weeks ago, at the mass rally in Sderot, he had promised that a quarter of a million, a maybe half a million, demonstrators would block the Kissufim junction into the Gaza Strip on the eve of disengagement. Yesterday not a single demonstrator was there. The MKs found Hendler alone in the kitchen of the gloomy house, smoking a cigarette. They embraced him and posed for a last photo before leaving him at Ganei Tal and heading back to Tel Aviv.