Where Are the Blue Ribbons?

have the public bodies behind the disengagement plan not initiated the flying of blue ribbons on balconies and cars?

Four weeks after reprimanding senior officials for their idleness in setting up alternative housing for the settlers who are to be evacuated from Gush Katif, the prime minister visited three communities that are slated to absorb them, and expressed much satisfaction with the rate of the preparations.

The day after the leaking of a letter in which the head of the National Security Council criticizes the state's preparations for the implementation of the disengagement plan, the media were invited to a meeting of the ministerial committee responsible for the matter to report on Ariel Sharon's satisfaction with the performance of the relevant government ministries.

In a world in which media spin determines the experience, publicists can readily create contrasting images and tell their clients - in this case, the prime minister and his ministers - to make use of them shamelessly.

And, in light of this, it is impossible to understand the government's complacency in the face of the orange-ribbon campaign that is being waged so successfully by the disengagement opponents. The country is awash with the orange symbol, which represents a challenge to the authorized decisions of the government, the Knesset and the Supreme Court - and Sharon, and his group of media advisers, are ignoring its effect on public opinion.

The sense of belonging to a group is an important key to garnering support. Fans of sports teams adorn themselves with their team's symbols and colors in order to heighten the sense of brotherhood and common destiny that unites them during the game. The feeling of togetherness affects the energy the fans put into supporting their team, and it is reflected in the team's performance on the field.

This phenomenon also holds true in public and political arenas: Traffic intersections are flooded with symbols and the pictures of election candidates in order to create a sense of solidarity with them. The effort to boost the frequency of the symbols in the street is designed to heighten the presence of the candidate, and thus create the impression of a strong force. The public relations people know this image is required not only to recruit new supporters, but also to boost the confidence of the veteran supporters and the smaller group of activists who are running the campaign.

The leaders of the evacuation opponents caught on to this professional secret a long time ago, and drew from it the called-for conclusions: They organized mass demonstrations, formed a long human chain, and have been painting Israel in orange over the past months. And nothing is being done to counter them: The left, the government, the silent majority have not woken up to fly blue ribbons to express support for the withdrawal. This is a foolish oversight because it leaves the playing field, on which the struggle over the sentiment surrounding the disengagement is being waged, in the hands of the evacuation opponents. The score thus far is 1-0 in favor of the settlers: The roads are flooded with cars adorned with orange ribbons, and large numbers of signs and billboards are urging resistance to the pullout.

Why a counter campaign has not been initiated remains a mystery: Why have the public bodies behind the disengagement plan not initiated the flying of blue ribbons on balconies and cars? It isn't a complex or expensive operation. If such a call were to be heard from a prominent public figure, one can assume the spontaneous response would be significant. Yes, there would also be a need for an organizational mechanism that would produce the ribbons and take care of their distribution, but is such a task too much for the government, the left-wing parties or the secular youth movements?

The evacuation opponents are enjoying the psychological advantage of people who have been pushed into a corner and are enlisted in a fateful struggle - and from this stems their dedication. The supporters of the pullout must also internalize and recognize that a failure in its implementation would spell disaster for the future of the state. They must fly blue ribbons, and thus illustrate the true numeric ratio between the majority and the minority. The result of the color war could be something of a substitute for a referendum. In any event, the evacuation refuseniks will find their image severely prejudiced when coming to resist the pullout with force if the country is filled with a color that expresses support for the move.