Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Unease on engagement

Today, the Knesset will vote on disengagement. This is one of the most fateful decisions that the State has ever made, on a par with Oslo and the handing back of Sinai. Emotions are running high and police plans to thwart protestors attempting to stop MKs from being able to vote include the possibility of flying them in to the Knesset by helicopter. This is an existential decision, potentially removing 8000 people from their homes and setting a precedent for the remainder of the territories captured in 1967.

Although I would like to be able to hold on to the territories, I have, over the years, come to the sad conclusion that they have become a liability and that therefore the best thing for the State of Israel is to have them off our hands. I say this with a heavy heart as I can't possibily begin to imagine what those who stand to be moved from their homes have been going through. I believe that they embody the pioneering spirit of Zionism and have a huge amount of admiration for them for sticking to their ideology.

My unease about the way in which the decision is being made stems from the fact that Sharon's platform at the last election, most decidedly did not include a unilateral withdrawal. The argument that "things that you see from here can't be seen from there" (it sounds better in Hebrew) is an important one as is the point that Menachem Begin did not have the evacuation of Sinai as part of his platform. The fact that Begin set a precedent does not make it a good precedent however.

My feeling is that the nation would almost certainly give Sharon a huge show of support for the withdrawal, but the fact that this is just a feeling, I see as being problematic. Surely it will forever be argued that the decision is not a democratic one, that Sharon was elected on the basis that he wouldn't give up territory? Were the issue to be put to a vote, either in the form of a referendum or by going to the polls it would have a greater legitimacy; in a situation where some form of civil unrest is a very real possibility it would seem to me that the quest for legitimacy is of huge importance.


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