Gaza Disengagement: Balagan

Balagan is a slangy Hebrew word, derived from Russian, used by the Israel Defense Forces to describe what is happening with Sharon's Gaza disengagement strategy: 'chaos; a screw up!'

It is less than 60 days before the 8000 residents of more than 20 villages that make up Gush Katif in the coastal Gaza district are to be moved to Netzarin, an oceanside setting in the northern Negev. The Sharon government has plied the Gaza settlers with the carrot of millions of shekels and the stick of preventive detention for their children should they balk at leaving under duress of military supervision.

The red—tiled villas and greenhouses on the sand dunes on the Gazan coast are brilliant green and red slashes in the satellite photos of Gaza, when viewed from outer space; the rest of the surroundings are barren.  The economic dislocation will be significant: Gush Katif greenhouses account for a major portion of Israel's flower exports.

The disruption of a forced evacuation is all the more distressing because in 1982 Sharon, then Defense minister in Prime Minister Begin's government supervised the removal of settlers from Yamit, a small town in the northern Sinai. This previous removal was one of the last disengagement matters for the 'cold' Egyptian peace treaty fashioned by President Carter, Begin and  Egyptian strongman Anwar Sadat at Camp David in 1979. Sadat was assasinated before he could see the withdrawal of the settlers.

The videos of IDF troopers pulling screaming Yamit settlers away from barricades of smoking burning tires on rooftops made an indelible impression in the minds of those who viewed the evacuation.  Where did many of the ousted Yamit settlers end up?  In some of the northern Gaza strip settlements, doomed to face yet another trauma of the same nature.

But Yamit in the Northern Sinai wasn't the only disengagement that Israel has undertaken with disastrous results.  Witness the pell mell rush out of Southern Lebanon in May 2000 that emboldened Yassir Arafat to ignite the Second Intifada, leaving more than 1700 dead and 10,000 wounded Israeli soldiers and civilians. That strategic blunder by former Israeli PM Barak created a vacuum  in Southern Lebanon instantly filled up by Hezbollah. Hezbollah, with the only armed militia in Lebanon, became a cat's paw for predatory Syria and its ultimate backer, the hooded mullahs in Iran.  Now, with Lebanon's parliamentary elections over, there is Hezbollah in complete control of Southern Lebanon, with well—stocked Katyusha rocket bases in the Bekaa Valley and 21 seats in the Beirut Parliament.

Will these 'balagans' of 1982 and 2000 occur again in Gush Kataif in 2005?

Ask, American Judy Shapiro, a talented speechwriter and one—time aide to former G.E. Chairman, Jack Welch who observed during a recent trip to Jerusalem:

'The mood here in Jerusalem is one of hopeless resignation. No one appears to believe the withdrawal will accomplish anything constructive —— on the contrary. The latest poll taken last week shows that public support for the withdrawal has fallen below 50% and there is discussion again of a referendum on the issue. There is talk that [Finance Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu] might resign right before the withdrawal, precipitating a collapse of the Sharon government. Bibi denies the rumors, but they persist. .... As for the Palestinians, Dahlan [Palestinian Authority security chief in Gaza] is warning that the third intifada is on the way.'

Then we have the fiasco of PA Foreign Minister al—Kadwi, the unctuous articulate spokesperson who appears frequently in the U.S. on the PBS Nightly News Hour, stating unequivocally that they will not disarm terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  Deputy P.M. Ehud Olmert opined that such a declaration is the equivalent of a 'cluster bomb' that will end peace discussions with the PA. 

Meanwhile Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom have just concluded discussions with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who will find out from General William Ward, the US security coordinator, and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, the Quartet 'supremo,' that 'fragile' President Abbas  isn't capable of controlling the truculent and roiling chaos in the West Bank and Gaza. Amalgamating the 14 warring PA security services, let alone dismantling the terror groups is beyond him. 

Au contraire.  Abbas has delayed the Parliamentary vote in the PA  until after the Gaza disengagement, because he knows that Gaza will become by popular vote an independent Hamas terror mini—state committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.  According to Ms. Greenberg, who completed a recent bus tour of Gaza with British journalists, Hamas flags were prominent in the Arab towns they passed through.  But Condi Rice's objective is to get Israel to go along with the fig leaf of a failed peace process long dead in the wake of the Second Intifada. Arafat's legacy is perpetual war.  No matter, Bush wants Gaza freed from Israel 'occupation' so that he can trumpet this Middle East peace offering to the cynical Russians and Eurabians: the Quartet partners.

Is it surprising then that former IDF Chief of Staff 'Bogey' Ya'alon, former Sharon cabinet Member and Human rights icon, Natan Sharansky and Bibi Netanyahu all believe that Gaza disengagement will put Israel and its citizens at great strategic risk when the 21 settlements in Gaza and Northern Samaria are evacuated under Sharon's plan?

Here's what one American observer, Fred Leder, has to say about why this strategy is disastrous in the wake of Israel's Pyrrhic victory in the Second Intifada.
'The Israelis won the battle of the [Second} intifada, — the use of suicide bombers to attack civilians within the state of Israel. This battle was won by good intelligence and the erection of a security barrier, along with checkpoints and careful screening of traffic on the roads.
The Israelis lost the battle of the Gaza district which was fought to infiltrate, rearm and resupply the Hamas, Islamic Jihad.  Gaza has become too dangerous for the IDF, let alone the 8000 Jews who built homes and businesses in the district.
We are about to witness the wholesale removal of Jews from their homes and businesses by other Jews who are agents of the one Jewish government which exists in the world, a process of removal which has never occurred in modern times.
The rejectionist Arabs will be encouraged by their 'victory' and attacks on Jewish civilians will intensify. Israel .must take the actions necessary to win that war.  Measures like completely disarming the entire population of the disputed territories, a virtual  death sentence for terrorist murderers  and the confiscation of land in response to organized terror activities.
Ceding of land in the midst of a war only resets the battle lines, and compromises the position of the military and the Israeli civilian population as well.'

The balagan of the looming Gaza disengagement controversy was apparent even in the recent celebration of  The Salute to Israel parade in Manhattan on June 5th.  Marching up Fifth Avenue a contingent of Zionist Organization of America and Betar supporters of Israel wore orange tee sheets emblazoned with the slogan: 'All of Israel is our Home.'  On the sidelines, in front of the venerable Plaza Hotel behind police barricades, were a group of extremist anti—Zionist orthodox Jews representatives of the Neturei Karta, replete with caftans, side locks and black hats waving posters that read 'Israel is not a Jewish state.'  All this while sheltered  under a large Palestinian flag.

The orange tee shirt marchers retorted by shouting 'not one inch.' 

They were cheered by the parade on—lookers as they marched up to Central Park to attend a protest rally and concert at which Israeli MKs spoke against the Gaza disengagement, while thousands of DVDs entitled 'Stab in the Heart,' an anti—withdrawal documentary were distributed gratis to the crowd.

Will PM Arik Sharon end up like the biblical Nazazite Samson, destroyer of the Philistines, shorn of his locks and eyeless in Gaza? Controversey, conflict, anger, and recriminations are already abundant. Balagan.

Jerry Gordon is a writer and activist based in Connecticut.