The Gravitational Force of the Green Line

In typical Israeli management style, the state speaks to the settlers in several tongues - both official and unofficial - creating contradictions in its messages.

In the confusion of preparations for implementing the disengagement plan, there is one good piece of news after all: The settlers who are to be evacuated are not considering moving to the West Bank.

The wheeling and dealing with state representatives is focusing only on the amount of severance fees the settlers are to receive for being uprooted. There is no ideological motive behind the bargaining. This indicates that the lesson from the forced pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank is getting through - the settlers realize that settling beyond the Green Line is an outdated concept. Those who are experiencing the pain of disengagement firsthand do not want to relive it.

This sentiment is still vague. The air is filled with a smokescren of media manipulations. On one hand, the settlers are busy creating a media tumult intended to improve their bargaining positions. They are not a uniform party - several groups are active among them, each striving for a different result, and providing journalists with headlines accordingly. On the other hand, there's the state, which is conducting psychological warfare against the settlers to reduce the evacuation costs as much as possible. The state, too, is not one body. In typical Israeli management style, it speaks to the settlers in several tongues - both official and unofficial - creating contradictions in its messages. However, the struggle's defining borders are becoming clearer, and they revolve around money.

This does not mean there aren't groups in the settler community who persist in believing that the disengagement plan could still be foiled. Nor does it mean that those who object have totally given up their intention of sabotaging the plan. There is still a considerable possibility that they will succeed in their scheme. The gathering of hundreds of enthusiastic young people, some of them violent, in the territories earmarked for evacuation could put the state to the test of enforcing the law and imposing order, a test that it would not be able to pass. However, on the conscious level, the lesson being learned by the settlers who are about to be evacuated is important. They say to themselves that Israeli society does not want their life's work, and is not willing to support it any longer. What is valid regarding Gaza and northern Samaria will be applied in the future to other communities in the West Bank. Therefore, they had better choose estates within the Green Line, rather than risk being uprooted again.

The families about to be evacuated are thus joining the underlying sentiment that has determined Israel's attitude toward the territories since 1967. After all, no Israeli government has ever declared the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the authorities for long-term planning always distinguished between the state's lines and the territories. They even took into consideration that one day these territories would be handed over to another sovereignty.

Large infrastructure projects such as the Trans-Israel Highway and railway lines stopped at the Green Line. Even the settlers preferred, in many cases, to bury their dead in cemeteries within state borders, and not in settlements they built in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Of course, this description does not reflect the whole picture. The settlement project - which relied on the West Bank's water sources, and saw the territories as part of the Israeli economic complex, among other things - reflects an approach that strove to merge Israel and the territories into one unit. However, in an undeclared or unconscious way, the conduct of Israel's governments indicates that they recoiled from fully utilizing this option.

After a tremendous settlement project, only about 7,000 Israelis live in the Gaza Strip and about 250,000 live in the West Bank. These numbers cannot compete with the tenure of 3.5 million Palestinians in these territories. It appears that the evacuees of Gush Katif and northern Samaria understand this better than anyone else.