Israeli settlements, withdrawal and peace

On Monday August 22, 2005, the settlement called Kadim ceased to exist. Established in 1984 in north central Samaria, it was within walking distance to Jenin, a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism. This West Bank community was originally home to forty—two families. Before September 2000, the Jewish inhabitants of Kadim lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors. They worked together, shopped in the same stores and traveled the same roads.

In September 2000, when the intifada reignited, Jenin, Kadim and the surrounding areas became a war zone. In April 2002, when we interviewed Debbie Drori, a Kadim resident, for the book Waiting for Peace — How Israelies Live with Terrorism (Gefen Publishing House), there were twenty—four families left. Debbie had believed then that Kadim would still exist twenty or thirty years down the road. She told us,

"If I would know that my being evacuated from Kadim would ensure peace, then I am prepared to call myself a 'victim of peace'. But it's BS! Nothing like that will every happen."

But it did happen. The remaining families of Kadim were evacuated. However, they are far from being the "victims of peace". The decision to evacuate Kadim and other Samarian settlements, as well as all the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, was a unilateral decision taken by the Sharon—led government of Israel. This decision was made not as a peace gesture, not as a culmination of extensive and fruitful peace negations, and definitely not as a guarantee against future terrorist attacks. As Daniel Pipes states in the New York Sun,

"He (Sharon) delivered Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim rejectionists their greatest boost ever. And he failed his American ally by delivering a major victory to the forces of terrorism."

This letter does not attempt to explain the reasons behind the disengagement plan. It does however attempt to explain why Israelis, both to the Right and to the Left, have not, despite all the apocalyptic warnings, resorted to civil war because of the disengagement and have not given up their hope for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.

In March 2002 when Liza Wiemer called me up to make sure that we, her Israeli relatives, were safe after the latest terrorist attack, she expressed a wish to help Israel in whatever way possible. As a writer she decided to help with her pen and her heart. We both felt that Israel and Israelis were misunderstood by the world media. Too many times Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is demonized by the very Western countries that should be supporting Israel in its war against terrorism. Liza and I decided to show the world who we Israelis really are. Waiting for Peace was the result. It is a book based on interviews with Israelis from all walks of life. The Right, the Left, the religious, and the secular are all represented. Then, as now, all Israelis dream of a life of peace, quiet and prosperity. This ideal of peace is so ingrained in the Israeli people that they are willing to help design and implement numerous peace initiatives, accords, and gestures even though the chances are slim they will bring peace to our region.

This past month has shown with what dignity the majority of the 9000 settlers left their homes in Gaza and Samaria. Israel's historic borders, like Europe's borders, have changed along the years. The region has seen many foreign rulers, as well. And despite the word "occupation", Gaza and Samaria have been home for the Jewish people for thousands of years. Today, however, our reality is based on the definition of what should constitute the State of Israel's borders. And here lies the reason for terrorism. It's all a question of a map. During the last few decades the State of Israel has drawn its border lines according to international decisions and from the results of wars initiated by its enemies. These border lines are the crux of the problem for the very reason that they even exist. The Palestinian Authority's map of the region has no Israel. The whole region is labeled "Palestine". The State of Israel simply does not exist.

So, how do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" refuses to see us as legitimately existing? How do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" teaches its citizens to fight until Israel no longer exists? How do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" continues to teach its children, imbued with hatred for us, to strive to be suicide bombers?  

I should like to try to supply a reason for our obstinacy when it comes to our continued belief in peaceful coexistence amongst ourselves and with our neighbors. We believe in striving for a better world for us and for our children. We believe in democracy and the democratic process. We believe that all of us, Jews, Christians and Muslims can live, work and build this country into a vibrant society together. We believe that we can actually accomplish all of this. Our beliefs may blind us to the reality around us, but we are dreamers and it is very difficult to crush a whole people's dream. Terrorism will not destroy our celebration of life nor will it unravel the fabric of our society.

Benay Katz writes from Timrat, Israel

On Monday August 22, 2005, the settlement called Kadim ceased to exist. Established in 1984 in north central Samaria, it was within walking distance to Jenin, a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism. This West Bank community was originally home to forty—two families. Before September 2000, the Jewish inhabitants of Kadim lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors. They worked together, shopped in the same stores and traveled the same roads.

In September 2000, when the intifada reignited, Jenin, Kadim and the surrounding areas became a war zone. In April 2002, when we interviewed Debbie Drori, a Kadim resident, for the book Waiting for Peace — How Israelies Live with Terrorism (Gefen Publishing House), there were twenty—four families left. Debbie had believed then that Kadim would still exist twenty or thirty years down the road. She told us,

"If I would know that my being evacuated from Kadim would ensure peace, then I am prepared to call myself a 'victim of peace'. But it's BS! Nothing like that will every happen."

But it did happen. The remaining families of Kadim were evacuated. However, they are far from being the "victims of peace". The decision to evacuate Kadim and other Samarian settlements, as well as all the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, was a unilateral decision taken by the Sharon—led government of Israel. This decision was made not as a peace gesture, not as a culmination of extensive and fruitful peace negations, and definitely not as a guarantee against future terrorist attacks. As Daniel Pipes states in the New York Sun,

"He (Sharon) delivered Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim rejectionists their greatest boost ever. And he failed his American ally by delivering a major victory to the forces of terrorism."

This letter does not attempt to explain the reasons behind the disengagement plan. It does however attempt to explain why Israelis, both to the Right and to the Left, have not, despite all the apocalyptic warnings, resorted to civil war because of the disengagement and have not given up their hope for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.

In March 2002 when Liza Wiemer called me up to make sure that we, her Israeli relatives, were safe after the latest terrorist attack, she expressed a wish to help Israel in whatever way possible. As a writer she decided to help with her pen and her heart. We both felt that Israel and Israelis were misunderstood by the world media. Too many times Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is demonized by the very Western countries that should be supporting Israel in its war against terrorism. Liza and I decided to show the world who we Israelis really are. Waiting for Peace was the result. It is a book based on interviews with Israelis from all walks of life. The Right, the Left, the religious, and the secular are all represented. Then, as now, all Israelis dream of a life of peace, quiet and prosperity. This ideal of peace is so ingrained in the Israeli people that they are willing to help design and implement numerous peace initiatives, accords, and gestures even though the chances are slim they will bring peace to our region.

This past month has shown with what dignity the majority of the 9000 settlers left their homes in Gaza and Samaria. Israel's historic borders, like Europe's borders, have changed along the years. The region has seen many foreign rulers, as well. And despite the word "occupation", Gaza and Samaria have been home for the Jewish people for thousands of years. Today, however, our reality is based on the definition of what should constitute the State of Israel's borders. And here lies the reason for terrorism. It's all a question of a map. During the last few decades the State of Israel has drawn its border lines according to international decisions and from the results of wars initiated by its enemies. These border lines are the crux of the problem for the very reason that they even exist. The Palestinian Authority's map of the region has no Israel. The whole region is labeled "Palestine". The State of Israel simply does not exist.

So, how do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" refuses to see us as legitimately existing? How do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" teaches its citizens to fight until Israel no longer exists? How do we Israelis continue to believe in peace when the Palestinian "peace partner" continues to teach its children, imbued with hatred for us, to strive to be suicide bombers?  

I should like to try to supply a reason for our obstinacy when it comes to our continued belief in peaceful coexistence amongst ourselves and with our neighbors. We believe in striving for a better world for us and for our children. We believe in democracy and the democratic process. We believe that all of us, Jews, Christians and Muslims can live, work and build this country into a vibrant society together. We believe that we can actually accomplish all of this. Our beliefs may blind us to the reality around us, but we are dreamers and it is very difficult to crush a whole people's dream. Terrorism will not destroy our celebration of life nor will it unravel the fabric of our society.

Benay Katz writes from Timrat, Israel