A Worldly, Not a Messianic Decision

Right-wing leaders must adjust their thinking to reality, instead of clutching talismans and praying for divine intervention that would save the settlements.

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson lay on his death bed, his followers launched a vigorous revival campaign under the slogan "Messiah now." When he died, Chabad's leadership was forced to explain to its followers that the rabbi was, after all, flesh and blood. Today, 11 years after his death, some of them still brandish his portrait with the caption "Long live the Messiah king."

Similarly, some of the evacuated settlers of Gush Katif believed until the last moment in divine intervention that would save them from the uprooting disaster. Some of them, even as the Israel Defense Forces troops were knocking on their neighbors' door, continued praying and declaring at the same time to the cameras, that God's salvation was forthcoming.

This is how the right-wing leaders, both religious and secular, see the future of the West Bank. They are clutching talismans and praying for divine intervention that would save the settlements. Effie Eitam is hallucinating about a solution that would annex part of the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip for setting up a Palestinian state on it (and rid the West Bank at this opportunity of 2.5 million Palestinians). Uzi Landau is not coming up with an answer to the question of how his concept - perpetuating the occupation - fits in with Jabotinsky's theory that ruled out an Israeli apartheid regime. Benjamin Netanyahu is zigzagging and deceiving aimlessly, while the settlers' leaders and rabbis are relying explicitly on prayers and the expectation of a miracle. The only realistic approach they have to offer to justify this hope is the saying "in 1948 too, when we were 600,000 people, nobody believed that after 57 years we would reach six million."

The hallucinators must be reminded that Zionism rose and implemented its vision with earthly, concrete plans and acts, and not by appealing to a superior power. Had Zionism waited for the belief that the Third Temple would descend from heaven to come true, David Ben-Gurion would not have declared the establishment of the state on the fifth of Iyar, 1948.

Israel reached its present place by the power of rational decisions and actions, which were made and carried out by human beings, including realistic religious Jews.

The future of Israel's grip on the West Bank must also be determined by criteria appropriate to any developed state - not by wishful thinking or reliance on the grace of God. The decision to evacuate the Gaza Strip derived from human judgment, and divine intervention could not stop it. So, too, future relations between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank will be grounded in secular considerations. Interlocutors from outer space will have no bearing on it.

Right-wing leaders must therefore adjust their thinking to reality. How can the ratio of a quarter of a million Jews to 2.5 million Palestinians allow Israel to remain in the West Bank? How can a society that wants to be moral continue to accept the injustices the occupation imposes on Palestinians? How can any state flourish under the political and economic siege of a world that rejects its rule over them? How can it reconcile its democratic identity with depriving Palestinians of their rights? How can it divide the land so as to both preserve the Zionist ideal and provide a living space for a Palestinian state? Tomorrow, the state will need more than ever to find answers to these questions and others like them. Right-wing leaders have no convincing answers.

The settlers' leaders cannot use the trauma that has allegedly been seared into the public's consciousness by the spectacles of evacuation in Gush Katif as an excuse to put things off. While many were pained to see the settlers' suffering at being uprooted, many others interpreted them as staged shows and as a deliberate, conscious presentation of hysteria. Although it may be delayed, the hour of decision will arrive and it will be totally worldly.