Only a Donkey Doesn’t Change His Mind

The current government, stubbornly insisting that they still intend to proceed on the same path of withdrawal, should remind themselves of this Moshe Dayan quote now that the disadvantages of the disengagement process have become so clear.

By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on April 6, 2006.)


Eight months after the execution of the disengagement plan, involving the forcible removal of 10,000 Israelis from their homes, amid the ongoing negotiations for the establishment of a new coalition government, which envisages the forcible removal of another 100,000 Israelis from their homes, it is time to take a good look at what has already been done before deciding to proceed along the same path.

The underlying assumptions of the unilateral withdrawal plan were that any part of the Land of Israel that the current government assumes should not be included within the eventual borders of the State of Israel should be cleared of the presence of all Jews residing there, and that the Israeli government is entitled to forcibly remove them from their homes there. These are no trivial assumptions and their validity even when supported by a majority of Knesset members and approved by a majority judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court is highly questionable. They run counter to the inherent rights that the Jewish people have claimed for generations to live and settle in the Land of Israel, a right that has been confirmed by the international community in the League of Nations mandate for Palestine. They also constitute a blatant violation of the civil rights of those Israeli citizens who are being forcibly removed from their homes; it is a process that is unimaginable in any other democratic society in this day and age. Not to mention that the very idea that the presence of Jews should be prohibited anywhere on this globe, simply because they are Jews, should be abhorrent to any civilized person.

There is no need to think back to the days of the Holocaust to realize that this runs counter to the most basic of human values, and that no ultimate goal, no matter how seemingly worthy at the moment, can possibly justify it. The claim by the advocates of the “inward withdrawal” plan that this is the path toward a “Jewish democratic State” is laughable. It may very well be the path to perdition.

But leaving aside for the moment the question of human values, and the basic rights of the Jewish people to live in this land, what about the immediate costs and benefits of the recent disengagement “adventure”?

Gush Katif, the largest and oldest of the “settlement blocs,” the settlement blocs which the advocates of disengagement pretend to have made the subject of a national consensus, and for which they advance the groundless claim that they have even obtained international recognition, has been destroyed, its residents forcibly removed from their homes and deprived of their livelihood. That this barbaric act is justifiable because it will “save” other settlement blocs is highly questionable.

Ten thousand Israelis have been made homeless and been added to the ranks of the unemployed. Six months after the disengagement, most of them are still living in temporary quarters with little likelihood of being able to earn a livelihood in their professions in the future. A hundred thousand Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria now live in fear of having to share their fate in the years to come. And Qassam rockets are falling daily onto the outskirts of Ashkelon, launched from the area from which Israeli settlements were removed as part of the disengagement plan six months ago.

The warnings of drastic retaliation by government spokesmen after the disengagement, and the attempts to halt these attacks by continuous artillery bombardments have proven useless and damaged Israel’s deterrent against Palestinian terror. In the meantime, the lives of Palestinians living in the area who have no connection to the launching of the Qassams are being endangered on a daily basis. This is not making Israel more popular in the world.

And Hamas has come to power in the areas controlled by the Palestinians, no doubt in large measure due to the Palestinian perception that the Israeli disengagement, which they see as a retreat under fire, was the direct result of the terror campaign waged by Hamas against Israelis in recent years.

And the benefits? Israeli demographics have not changed by an iota as a result of the disengagement, and whatever international approval Israel enjoyed following the withdrawal, was based primarily on the assumption in much of the world that this was a first step toward an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and is obviously going to be of short duration. There is no historical precedent to justify the government’s expectation that it will obtain international recognition for the borders it intends to establish unilaterally. That is not going to happen.

The Kadima members, who were formerly members of the Likud, when questioned about their ideological about-face tend to quote one of Moshe Dayan’s less profound aphorisms: Only a donkey does not change his mind. Now that we can clearly see the disadvantages of the disengagement process, while they stubbornly insist that they still intend to proceed on the same path, they need to be reminded that only donkeys do not change their minds.

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