Gush Katif Revisited

May 4, 2010

Following the recent victory by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Likud central committee vote, a victory that has effectively neutralized any short-term opposition within the Likud by changing the party’s constitution in order to further delay the already long overdue internal elections, I found myself thinking back to the events leading up to the 2005 Gaza Disengagement.

In particular I thought about former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and how he manhandled, bullied and squashed any internal Likud opposition following his adoption of the one-sided withdrawal policy of Labor’s Amram Mitzna, a policy that was overwhelmingly rejected first in the national elections and then in subsequent internal Likud votes. How, I asked myself, did Sharon succeed in implementing his plan despite these apparent obstacles?

After much contemplation I realized something very dark and very sad.

Although it’s true that the media and courts and the rest of the merry crew protected Sharon and his plan like an etrog enabling him to ignore vote after vote on his was to throwing 10,000 people out of their homes and destroying their lives, this protection was not the real reason that Sharon was able to do what he did. The real reason, as painful as these words might be, was that most of the nation back in 2005 couldn’t care less about Gush Katif and the other isolated communities. It’s incredibly sad and tragic but it’s the truth. With most Jews having little or no connection to these areas while simultaneously being bombarded with constant negative portrayals by the media, it’s not surprising that over the course of time most Jews became indifferent to the plight of their fellow Jews living in these areas. Thus, despite the beautiful communities that were built and all the wonderful achievements, most Israelis did not view these areas as being a part of the State of Israel.

Thus, on one level Sharon did not completely go against the nation. Since he probably knew that most people could care less about Gush Katif and that most did not even consider it a part of Israel, he also knew that in the face of such complacency he had a virtual free hand to do as he pleased in order to throw these people out of their homes. Obviously this does not excuse him for what he did since it was clearly wrong. Rather, I’m just stating a hard and bitter fact.

With this understanding, one does not need to be a genius to realize that if most Jews continue to view the areas of Judea and Samaria as not being a part of Israel, then God forbid the same might happen there. Moreover, regardless of Netanyahu’s real motivation behind the recent Likud vote, the time to act is now.

Thus in order to get the average Israeli thinking and believing that Shilo and Kiryat Arba are just as much a part of the State of Israel as are Haifa and Beersheva, I would strongly recommend that the following two measures be implemented as quickly as possible:

1. The leaders of Yesha and the various regional councils should allocate as much money as possible to public relations and advertising in order to connect more Israelis to Judea and Samaria. Moreover, this should be done even at the expense of funds that could be utilized for further development of the region since buildings and communities by themselves, as witnessed in Gush Katif, are not enough to prevent their eventual destruction.

2. Every resident of Judea and Samaria should invite friends, family and coworkers who live in other parts of the country for a visit in order to connect them to their homes, their lives and their communities in Judea and Samaria. Since familiarity with a place usually breeds an emotional attachment to the place, this is a must in order to change the image that the average Israeli has of Judea and Samaria.

If we take to heart the wise saying, “those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”, hopefully we will not make the same mistake again.

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