It Doesn't Stop at Orange

There are many things Ariel Sharon did not say to the nation in his pre-taped speech Monday night.

There are many things Ariel Sharon did not say to the nation in his pre-taped speech Monday night: he did not explain why he thought up the disengagement plan, he did not provide persuasive reasons for its necessity, he did not speak from the heart but instead recited a public relations-like text, and most especially, he did not proclaim that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria is a singular move that will not repeat itself.

Moreover, the few simplistic, self evident reasons he did present to justify the disengagement necessarily lead to the conclusion that the State of Israel must continue in the West Bank the process that began in Gush Katif.

What did Sharon say? That the demographic statistics, the Palestinians' objection to the Israeli presence in their midst, security considerations, and the need to direct the national resources inward - all these force Israel to forgo the dream of hanging on to Gush Katif. Whoever bears that insight cannot avoid the conclusion that it also applies to continued occupation in the West Bank. There, too, the demographic ratio is to Israel's detriment, and the considerations for defending these communities lead to a recognition that it is preferable to uproot them and to base relations with the Palestinians on an agreement rather than on the sword. There, too, the presiding order of priorities is topped by the needs of the economy and society within the state, rather than the settlers' well-being and security.

The Minister of History, in his ironic clowning, imposed on Ariel Sharon, of all people, the tremendous job of putting the state back onto the track from which it veered beginning in 1967. Only a cynical and unbridled person would be capable of turning his back on his life's work and abandoning his army of disciples. Some will see in this an ugly character trait; others will think it sublime leadership. The decisive factor is Sharon's willingness to carry out the task. The man, who more than once tore down what he himself had built (Unit 101, the Shlomzion movement, his tenure in the Defense Ministry), is now wreaking devastation on the settlement enterprise he had nurtured, and is exposed to the danger of a break up of his Likud party, which he himself founded.

These are not accidents, but rather a serial behavior pattern: only an arrogant and stubborn person, who believes in his advantages over others, seeks within himself the affirmation that he knows better than others what needs to be done and how. In his speech Monday night, like with other circumstances in his life, he did not reveal his inner thoughts, but made do with statements of the sort that he had offered on more than one occasion since he became prime minister: "Things you see from here, you don't see from there." In other words: I came to the conclusion that this is what must be done - and everyone has to accept my verdict and obey it.

Sharon projects onto his readings of reality based on his familiarity with himself: he acts as one who believes that relations between people are purely utilitarian. He comes across as someone who operates according to the belief that any person can be bought, or intimidated. There is no moral dimension to his maneuvers. Therefore he, apparently, is the right man to implement the massive maneuver of beginning the Israeli withdrawal from the territories. He is blessed with the force of leadership, he is an opportunist, does not suffer pangs of conscience, is stubborn and devious - all this makes him the right man at this moment.

Today the extent of the violent opposition to the implementation of the disengagement plan will become clear: are we talking about a minority of youngsters, or a sizable ideological camp motivated by the power of fanatic religious faith? If the first option proves correct, it will be possible to heave a sigh of relief, despite the flammable potential it, too, contains: violent eccentrics crop up on the margins of every society, and if many from the mainstream of the settler public joins forces with them, Israel will find itself in a heap of trouble.

In any event, the entire Israeli society will have to give some thought to the day after: How will those who believe with every fiber of their being that withdrawal from the territories is tantamount to pulverizing the Zionist foundation on which the state lives go on living together with those who are convinced that continued occupation destroys the Zionist vision?