People often ask why there is any reason to be so excited about what the Sharon government proposes when it proposes the demolition of 26 Jewish communities in Gush Katif in Gaza and in Samaria.
After all, didn’t Sharon demolish sixteen Jewish communities in the Sinai in April, 1982, in his capacity as Israel’s Minister of Defence, supposedly as a prelude to “peace” with Egypt? (Some peace, the Egyptians look the other way as arms are smuggled over their border to murder Israeli women and children in terrorist attacks).
So why is this newer removal so different from any other removal?
Back in 1982, as a community organization social worker, I was one of many mental health professionals asked to render assistance to residents of Yamit in the Sinai who were being evacuated from their homes after living there for several years.
The process of counseling people in such circumstances was not an easy one. Families were falling apart at the seams. A couple whom I knew had been prosperous and happily married saw their lives torn apart in a process that destroyed their marriage.
Yet the Yamit evacuation in Gaza counseling process was doable, for many reasons.
The compensation offered then was good.
The people being evacuated were comforted to know that the government of Israel had achieved a solid clear peace treaty with Israel’s most powerful adversary in exchange for total withdrawal from the Sinai. At least there would be quiet on Israel’s southern border.
Cabinet Ministers, including Prime Minister Begin, invited the evacuees to see him to hear their plight, and the people of Yamit and the other 15 evacuated communities back then felt that they were still appreciated and respected by the government of Israel and by the media.
In addition, then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon helped the communities to relocate – as complete communities – to places that the government cleared for settlement, over a period of three years, from the moment when the peace treaty was signed in 1979 until their relocation in 1982.
Sharon personally helped people from Yamit resettle their families to Elei Sinai, in the Northern most part of the Gaza Strip, in an area that had been a no-man’s land, patrolled by the United Nations forces from 1957 until Egypt demanded that the UN pull out in 1967.
The government of Israel helped the agricultural community of Atzmoneh, move to a new location under the same name in Gush Katif in Gaza, while the government also helped the Yamit Yeshiva moved to a new location in Neveh Dekalim also in Gaza.
While the demolition of Yamit and its suburbs was indeed a trauma, it was a trauma that people were able to cope with.
The precedent of Yamit was that Israel would trade settlements only for a solid peace treaty with an Arab entity.
Since no peace treaty was on the horizon, people had felt safe and secure in the notion that no Israeli government would ever dismantle Jewish communities for anything less than a solid peace treaty with an Arab neighbor. It might not be perfect, but as least there would be quiet.
In that spirit, Israel’s Zionist peace movements – Meretz in the Knesset and “Peace Now” in the streets, stuck to their philosophy of “territories for peace”, based on the Yariv-Shaem Tov formula, named for Israeli intelligence chief Aharon Yariv and Israeli Mapam leader Victor Shaem Tov.
This “territories for peace ” formula was far different from the platform of the anti-Zionist Left led by Matzpen, Uri Avneri, General Mati Peled and the Israeli Communist party, all of whom advocated the unilateral abandonment of Israel’s Jewish communities established beyond the 1967 lines, with no “quid pro quo”
That position was firmly opposed by the Israeli Zionist Left.
As General Aharon Yariiv told me in an interview on February 24th 1988, “We advocated territory for peace, not territory before peace,” since territory handed to an enemy at war with Israel could simply be used as a launching pad for attacks against Israel
The Ten Essential Differences:
Yamit and Gaza’s Gush Katif / Samaria’s Shomron
Let us now turn the clock from 1982 to the 2005 lightening bolt process of the Sharon government, which has suddenly adopted the position of the Israel Communist Party, in favor of “territory before peace.”
Let us look at the ten fundamental differences between the two situations.
1. 1982 involved ceding land to an Arab state making peace, while 2005 involved ceding land to a PLO promising continued warfare with Israel.
2. Yamit and its surrounding agricultural settlements were of little significance to to the economy of the state or people of Israel. Katif provides $62 million of agricultural exports for Israel, along with hundreds of teachers for the communities of the Western Negev.
3. Yamit and its surrounding agricultural settlements held little strategic significance for Israel. However, Katif’s location in five parts of Gaza was planned as a way of slowing the advance of any potential invasion from south, while allowing vital intelligence listening posts for continuing surveillance of Gaza and the sea. Meanwhile, all four hilltop settlements slated for abandonment in the Shomron are places from where the PLO can attack anywhere on the coastal plain of Israel
4. Compensation being offered is much smaller. The Florsheim Institute of Social Research has shared with its research with the Knesset to show that the government offers less than one tenth of what was offered to the people in Yamit.
5. The Israeli government cannot show that there is any peace treaty or any inkling of a peace arrangement with the PLO, despite the fact that the brochure issued on May 1st, 2005 by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that “disengagement will lead to peace”
6. While people in Yamit and its surrounding agricultural settlements were there for an average of 5 years, most of the families in Katif have lived there for as long as 25-30 years.
7. Yamit residents were never demonized by the Israeli gov’t media outlets. For the past year, the Israeli government-owned-and-operated TV and Radio media has consistently portrayed the residents who oppose their eviction as unreasonable fanatics and worse.
8. Yamit residents had three years to plan their future from the time of the signing of the April 1, 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty on the White House lawn until its implementation on April 30th 1982, when the settlements in the Sinai were uprooted. In contrast, the Katif/Shomron communities have to plan their future from the day of Knesset ratification of the compensation bill in February 2005 until August, 2005, when the law evicted them from their homes and farms, or face the prospect of criminal prosecution
9. While Israeli Israel government officials maintained a continuing dialogue with the people of Yamit, Israeli cabinet officials have for the most part refused to speak with them. The Secretary of Kadim in Shomron shows that all letters to Israeli cabinet officials to ask them why they were demolishing their community of 21 years went unanswered. Residents of Ganim who decided to leave were denied requests to meet with cabinet members and say that they were treated like criminals throughout the process. Katif residents only heard about the details of their abandonment from radio and internet reports, while cabinet members would not answer requests to meet with them. And when Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz did come to the Katif community center, I witnessed his refusal to answer any questions.
10. While the June 6th, 2004 provision in the Israel government decision clearly states that no homes or assets from Jewish communities would be ceded to anyone “involved in terrorist activity,” the government of Israel simply eliminated this clause from its June 23rd, 2004 agreement with the World Bank, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry brochure of May 1st, 2005 simply eliminated the clause. Such an omission allows PLO warlord Muhammad Dahlan, fingered by Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Wall Street Journal of June 2nd, 2002 as the man responsible for the campaign of cold-blooded murder against the citizens of Israel, to be the man whom Israel is nurturing to take over assets of abandoned Jewish properties. This, despite the fact that Olmert stated in that article that Dahlan should be executed by Israel for his crimes that included murdering Israeli schoolteachers and costing Israeli children their legs in a deliberate terrorist attack on a school bus. Imagine what would have happened if, while consoling the people of Yamit, we would have broken the news to them that the Islamic Brotherhood of Egypt would be taking control of their homes and property. Nobody sees the analogy as we plunge headlong into the so-called “Road Map.”
Preparing For Massive Military Action
All this is written as a backdrop to the reality that the Israeli Army is amassing more than 40,000 troops and police near Gaza to forcibly remove Jews from their homes. The Israeli police force has purchased 500 horses from Germany to aid them in their task. Former Israeli intelligence official, Rony Shaked, now a senior correspondent for the daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, has written that the IDF now has specially trained dogs who can pull people out of their homes and on to the streets. And the IDF troops near Katif have been handed a document which explains under what circumstances will they be expected to open fire on protesters. The document concludes with an estimate that 300 residents and/or protesters will be killed in the process. Western media never reports this stuff. Then again, what really is the likelihood of such failed ideas working when they are forced down Israel’s throat and terrorism is rewarded?
A far cry from Yamit. This quest for “peace” is insane.