The Truth the Settlers Deserve

The withdrawal is essential to make clear that the ideology of a Greater Israel crushes the smaller Israel.

One of the deceitful arguments the settlers are waving in the government's face is: "Tell us the truth. Look us in the eyes." Their meaning, although they do not say it in so many words, is that for several decades the looks that passed between the settlers and the governments were always accompanied by a wink.

They moved into settlements, and the government's eye was covered with a cataract. They broke laws and the governments acted as if they had lost a coin on the floor. No one dared to tell the truth to the settlers, thereby abandoning the public arena to their version of the truth.

The settlers used every device in the attempt to sell their truth, to make it penetrate into the heart of the consensus. At first, the settlements were portrayed as the state's frontline, as a security-defense line.

When it turned out there was not much to support this posture, new slogans were born that left no room for further reflection: "The nation is with the Golan," "Yesha [an acronym for territories] is here," "Rabin has no mandate." This was the reality the public must accept unquestioningly, the settlers declared, trying to "settle in our hearts."

They are once again trying to impose this same reality on the public, with slogans about "expulsion." This time, they are right about one thing. Just as there was no connection between the settlements and security, there is no connection between the disengagement and security. This is the truth that should be disseminated. This time, it is not a case of deceit on the part of the settlers, but rather a sort of unwritten understanding, totally unsubstantiated, between the public and the government.

After the withdrawal, according to this understanding, quiet will reign, all of Israel's security problems will end, the cycle of violence will come to a close and there will be no more worries about terror attacks. Evidence of this understanding can be found in the statements of the prime minister and defense minister asserting that there will be no withdrawal under fire. That is, the withdrawal is conditional on a cease-fire.

Ostensibly, a model for negotiations has been created here. Israel gives the Palestinians a withdrawal and is supposed to receive quiet in return. But no party has signed any such agreement. Furthermore, the Israeli occupation of Gaza will not come to an end with the withdrawal. In this, the situation is completely different from the withdrawal from Lebanon.

Israel will continue to imprison a million and a quarter Palestinians in a narrow territory, the airport and seaport will not operate and passage from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank will remain under full Israeli control. All of the reasons to continue the Palestinian struggle will still exist.

While the withdrawal from Lebanon represented a complete end of the occupation, the withdrawal from Gaza is only one step, and not a particularly significant one, in changing the conditions under which Palestinians live. This understanding is important to drawing the line between empty promises and the need to withdraw for reasons unrelated to security. Because there are excellent reasons to implement this withdrawal.

The occupation must come to an end, even if this is done in installments, because during its 38 years of existence it has not succeeded in achieving its goal; it has not produced quiet or resolved the national conflict. The withdrawal is essential to make clear that the ideology of a Greater Israel crushes the smaller Israel. In particular, it is essential to demonstrating that it is possible to retreat from ideology when the ideology produces more harm than good.

This importance of the withdrawal from Gaza, which strips the settlements of their holy mantle and brings them down from the heights of the Jewish dream to their true status, is a matter of policy. As such, it does not need to be different than the policy of population settlement that accompanied the state - which was sometimes successful and sometimes, like the population dispersal in the Negev and Galilee, a resounding failure.

The withdrawal from Gaza also places the West Bank settlements in a realistic light and transforms a future withdrawal from the West Bank into a "technical" or "economic" problem, rather than an act of desecration. This is also the reason for the need to separate the withdrawal from Gaza from the promise of complete security.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will go on, and all means will continue to be used in the conflict - unless the government succeeds in explaining, first to itself and then to the public, that this withdrawal will be followed by additional withdrawals, concessions and installments.

This is the honest look in the eye the public deserves. This is the truth the settlers deserve.