Two camps today look from afar on the discussions about Gaza and ask "what if?" What would have happened if Sharon had suffered a stroke six months ago, just before the order was given for the bulldozers to flatten the settlements of Gaza, before the army began to evacuate the settlers and before the great sigh of relief was sounded after the liberation from Gaza?
Both camps are now wringing their hands. One cannot understand the Creator of the world for delaying the stroke and enabling the evil government to expel Jews from their land. The second is beginning to fear that the withdrawal movement has entered a deep sleep. The man who was so identified with establishing settlements deceived both camps. He did this year what he has been accustomed to doing most of his life: to dictate events and crown them with the title "historic." That is, events that appear to be eternal cannot be changed. What Sharon planted in the ground was seen as impossible to uproot. Even when governments changed, and one policy replaced another, Sharon's implants in the occupied territories could rely on the fact that Sharon would not allow them to be uprooted.
This was a successful image, but not a true one. After all, the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from Sinai and dismantled the settlements there; it left the cities of the West Bank after the Oslo Accords, even if this exit was not accompanied by the dismantling of settlements; the IDF withdrew from Lebanon and, of course, from Gaza, an exit that was accompanied by a rapid dismantlement of settlements. It is possible that Sharon planned several more withdrawals, but he will no longer be the one to execute them.
The image of irrevocable settlements was necessary for countering the transitory nature of the ideology of Greater Israel. Without this image, it would have been difficult to inflate this ideology. This is why it was essential to wrap itself around a fundamental military-political pillar like Ariel Sharon - a pillar who ultimately turned out to be a military tactician who knows when he has lost the battle and a politician who understood the limitations of ideology. Not a Jabotinsky, and certainly not a Ben-Gurion. But this image, of irrevocability, made Sharon the only one who could strip Kfar Darom of its "historic" holiness, because he was the one who had bestowed it with this holiness. And the same is true for Netzarim and the rest of the shrines.
However, in the framework of the disengagement, Sharon did much more during the past year than remove several settlements and a few thousand people from occupied territory. He made it clear that someone who gives can also take back, and that it is much easier and more proper for the one who gave to be the one who takes back. This is already a historic determination that awaits a successor to implement this principle in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Because the nature and size of the price to be paid for this principle was determined by Sharon himself. And, more importantly: This principle has a price. And this is what should be worrying the settlers today more than anything else.
Sharon shattered the fear of "the trauma the withdrawal would cause" and composed a detailed price list, down to every cow and chicken, for withdrawal from any territory. He exposed the nakedness of the messianism of the proponents of Greater Israel and completed this mission by establishing in a single moment a political party that became the hottest show in town, so that whoever does not join the party is a nobody. It is a party that would also have moved, albeit at a glacial pace, toward the next withdrawal.
The creator of the myth of the settlements completed the work of dismantling this myth. It remains for the settlers to wake up from another illusion - that "Sharon's policy" was solely dependent on one man, and that when he ceases to function or dies, his "evil policy" would also die with him. They should look around them and see who rushed to join Kadima, fearing to be left out. They should recall the millions of citizens of Israel who did not participate in the demonstrations against the disengagement and did not heed the call to save the exiles from the territories. They can perhaps discern from this that the heritage of the settlements is giving way more and more to a new heritage: the heritage of the disengagement.
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