There Will Be No Evacuation From Gaza

Before the evacuation of Gaza Strip settlements can be carried out, two key questions must be answered: Does Ariel Sharon want to, and is he capable of it?

There is no need to stand in line to buy pocket calculators. Any Gaza settler who expects a fat check for evacuating his house and greenhouse, can count on several more seasons of sowing and reaping and many more rounds of violence. Because before the evacuation can be carried out, two key questions must be answered: Does Ariel Sharon want to, and is he capable of it?

After the interview he gave Yoel Marcus in Haaretz, there is no longer any point in quoting his previous statements. There can be no doubt that we have before us a new Sharon, fresh and clean of all his old spots. If he ever compared Kfar Daron to Negba or granted national sanctity to Netzarim, that was in the past. Therefore, for now we are exempt from psychoanalyzing his personal desires.

The problem is with the basic, seemingly rational assumptions, that support the evacuation theory - Sharon will evacuate Gaza because he wants to continue occupying the West Bank; evacuating Gaza will relieve the international pressure, mainly American, on Israel and strengthen the pressure on the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table; leaving Gaza is more acceptable to Israeli public opinion; and finally, terror in Gaza will die down in the absence of available targets like settlements and military forces.

The assumption that evacuating Gaza will facilitate the continued occupation of the West Bank is misleading and dangerous. The Palestinians perceive these two regions as one inseparable unit, the settlers sanctify them both equally and the United States does not regard the West Bank's occupation any more more legitimate than Gaza's. Israel should have learned from experience that partial retreats, deep as they may be, do not bring in their wake gratitude or submission. The partial withdrawal from Lebanon to the security zone lines did not reduce the intensity of war there, and the partial withdrawal from West Bank cities in keeping with the Oslo Accord did not help to legitimize Israel's occupation in the rest of the occupied territories.

The rationale of exchanging Gaza for the West Bank will not stop there. It will be true also of withdrawing from the south of Mount Hebron in exchange for Hebron and Kiryat Arba and withdrawing from Kadim and Ganim in exchange for Ariel and Kedumim. This is the logic trap which will grip Sharon's new theory from now on and shatter the assumption that the pressure on Israel will lessen.

Sharon justified his readiness to withdraw from Gaza by saying "the intention is to relocate settlements from problem-causing places or from places where we shall no longer be in a permanent settlement." Sharon did not elaborate which settlements are "problem-causing," but let's say he was talking about security problems only. Is there a single settlement in the West Bank that does not "cause problems?" A single place that does not require constant close protection? Is there a single place that is not a security burden? Is Sharon's criterion the relation between the number of soldiers needed to guard a settlement and the number of settlers in it? If so, there are quite a few West Bank settlements in which the ratio is no different from that in Gaza.

Now it's the third assumption's turn to break down. The armed struggle against Israel will not stop as a result of the withdrawal from Gaza; it will increase in the West Bank due to the understanding that Israel understands only force. And the Gaza Strip will not sit idly by either. Qassam rockets do not require only settlements as targets. Whoever expects relative Lebanon-style calm following the withdrawal from Gaza will be disappointed. Because in Lebanon Israel has two responsible states at hand, Lebanon and Syria. In the territories there is no equivalent system.

These truths are not lost on Sharon and therefore there is no point in anticipating withdrawal. Still, one riddle remains - why not invite Ahmed Qureia and introduce him to the new Sharon? Give him the plan of withdrawal from Gaza, with a timetable, without prior conditions, just as Sharon presented it to the Israeli public, and continue the negotiations from there? The serious answer to that is that the new Sharon sounds almost like the Mafia boss in Channel 2's satirical program 'Great Country:' "I'll evacuate 20, maybe 30 settlements. A day."