Norman Podhoretz's important article in COMMENTARY (Israel and the Palestinians: Has Bush Reneged?) identifies one of the most remarkable aspects of the
Nor in any of the wildest worst-case scenarios I could conjure up did it ever occur to me that, in the aftermath of disengagement, an Israeli government -- any Israeli government -- would sit by passively while missiles were being fired day after day from Gaza into Sderot or any other patch of Israeli territory. . . .
. . . I cannot for the life of me imagine
I find it incredible that the Olmert government has for so long been incapable of discharging the most elementary responsibility any government has of protecting its people against attack, and even more incredible that, in spite of this dereliction, Olmert remains in office.
Podhoretz's observation reflects the fact that the disaster of the disengagement is not simply military or strategic. The collateral damage has included the impact on the Israeli spirit.
The disengagement was implemented by the Israeli elites, not only without a general referendum, but in direct violation of (1) the Likud referendum that
The excuse for not holding a public referendum was it was unnecessary, since public opinion polls showed a majority of Israelis supported it. But if that were true, there was no reason not to hold the referendum, to obtain the formal public approval such a divisive and decisive step required.
In early 2005, a prominent Israeli political scientist wrote an article listing various reasons for dispensing with a referendum (there was no established procedure for one; it was a bad precedent; it would be difficult to frame the question; it would take time, etc.). The reasons seemed unconvincing to me, and when I made that comment to him, he told me the "real reason" for foregoing a referendum -- the reason he said he could not put in print.
The referendum, he said, would pass -- but only with the votes of the Arab population of
In other words, the policy was too important to let the Jews vote.
Back in 2005, there were large demonstrations against the disengagement, with orange-colored banners everywhere. The protests continued up until the disengagement itself. But today -- with a government conducting a premature Phase III, with a Palestinian "Authority" that could not even hold onto Gaza when it was handed to it, a "peace partner" that refuses to recognize a Jewish state, and has failed to dismantle even its own "military wing" -- there is nothing from the Israeli public. No demonstrations, no protests, no banners or colors -- just resignation.
Begun with a broken campaign promise, then a disregarded referendum of the governing party, then a refusal to hold a public referendum, the disengagement was followed by serial acts of war, to which the government made no effective response, followed by a failed war in Lebanon by a leader who took "full responsibility" for the fiasco but remained in office, followed by an "acceleration" of the "peace process" by discredited leaders, acting without public support, conducting final status negotiations in secret, under fire.
No wonder the spirit of
[Y]ou don't allow yourself to be horrified by the fact that almost 8,000 rockets have been fired at Sederot, that life there has been transformed into hell. . . . elementary school kids have been wetting their beds, half the businesses are vacated, more than half the town is empty, the economy doesn't exist and everyone is scared to death, all the time. . . .
You get so used to it that you don't see that Jews sitting like ducks, simply waiting to be hit by homemade missiles while the region's most powerful army sits on the side and polishes its boots, is a bastardization of what Zionism was supposed to be. . . .
[W]e allow ourselves to grow comfortable being sitting ducks, and find ourselves exactly where we were a century ago. Kishinev morphs into Sederot, and very few people see the irony, or the utter shame, and shamefulness, of what's transpiring here. . . .
And the charade with Abu Mazen permits us to continue hallucinating about the possibility of peace, to pretend that the Palestinians aren't simply an utterly failed people that will never make peace in our lifetimes or those of our children . . . .
Our Prime Minister doesn't want to defend Sederot. Or
Perhaps the issue is not whether Bush has reneged on