Sharon chose Bush

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Zeev Hever has served in recent years as head of the "Amana" movement, the settlement arm of the Yesha Council (Council of the Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza). Hever, nicknamed Zambish, is a close personal friend of the prime minister of Israel. What do these two have in common, with their quarter-century age differential? Simply this: Ariel Sharon, despite his frequent involvement in financial improprieties, in his heart of hearts likes and respects idealists who keep their distance from financial issues and devote themselves entirely to the Jewish people and to Zionist ideals. In his eyes Zambish symbolizes these ideals.

On December 16, two days before Sharon’s Herzliya speech, Hever addressed the press for the first time in years. It happened at Migron, the outpost Sharon intends to dismantle. Hever, who is a kind of alter ego to Sharon when it comes to Zionist ideals, declared that dismantling settlements is a type of mental illness; a throwback to the Jews’ spiritual ills from Diaspora days, when they were submissive and sought only to grovel to the lord of the land in 18th and 19th century Eastern Europe. There could be no greater insult to the likes of Ariel Sharon, a symbol–certainly in his own eyes–of the "new Jew", born on the land, free of the complexes of ghetto Jews, who knows how to say a sharp "no" to the rulers of the world, i.e., to American presidents.

If Hever hoped to influence the contents of the Herzliya speech, he failed. Sharon stated that he had made a commitment to President Bush to "dismantle unauthorized outposts. It is my intention to implement this commitment . . . Period." Nor did he hesitate to commit to "changing the deployment" of veteran settlements, not recently built outposts, as part of a "redeployment" and unilateral disengagement. Member of Knesset Uri Ariel, another old friend of Sharon, stated after the speech that the very soldiers once dispatched by Sharon to fight at the front for the Zionist ideal had now been shot by him in the back. And what is the Zionist ideal if not settlement? This is a heavily loaded statement in an Israel that has not yet recovered from the trauma of the Rabin assassination. Prior to his election to the Knesset, Ariel was the general secretary of the Yesha Council. The troika of Sharon-Ariel-Hever had worked closely together on planning and implementing Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria.

Intelligence services near and far, and the political establishments in Israel, the Arab states and the West are all busily trying to answer the question: is this a new Sharon? Does he really mean to implement what he presented in Herzliya? And if so, what are his motives? What caused such an extreme metamorphosis in the earlier convictions of this much-admired man? Most of all, though, it is the settlers–the people for whom Sharon really was the man who enabled the fulfillment of their Zionist ideals–who are agonizing over these questions. Many of them desperately want to believe that this is but one more "ploy" of the sort Sharon executed over the course of long years when he held central positions in the life of the country, in the army and beyond.

My advice to my settler friends is to stop agonizing. If Zambish and Uri Ariel, perhaps the closest people to Sharon other than his family and immediate assistants, said what they said about Sharon, then something has gone seriously wrong. Between loyalty to his ideals and to them on the one hand, and keeping his promise to President Bush on the other, Sharon chose Bush. Anyone who believes that unilateral redeployment will increase terrorism–since the Palestinians will now believe that they have broken the will even of Ariel Sharon–rather than reduce it; anyone who believes that a State of Israel reduced to a crowded ghetto within an area of 20,000 square kilometers is living on borrowed time; anyone who thinks that the destruction of settlements is a mortal blow–from a moral, ideological and human standpoint–to the very soul of Zionism, must take his/her place at the forefront of the non-violent struggle to thwart Ariel Sharon’s plans.

This week, for eight days, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, commemorating the Jewish victory over the Greeks. More than 2,100 years ago the Jews revolted against the Greeks who had conquered their land. A considerable portion of the Jews opposed the revolt, preferring to collaborate with the Greeks–people of culture, rulers of the world in their day. They were called "Hellenizers". In the end the victors were those known as "zealots"–today known as "settlers". What is certain is that the Hellenizers, who had tired of the struggle against the Greeks and were enchanted by Greek culture, slowly abandoned their people and their country, just like the old elites of today who seek to integrate with globalization, particularly of the American variety. In contrast, the sons and daughters of the zealots sustained the generational chain of Judaism, and it is thanks to them that there exists today a Jewish people who returned, after some 1,900 years of exile, to reestablish a state in their land.

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Yisrael Harel was the chairman and general secretary of the Yesha Council between 1980 and 1995. It was during these years that, thanks to the energetic efforts of Ariel Sharon, most of the settlements were established in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District. In 1995, Harel participated in secret meetings between settler leaders and senior officials and intellectuals in the Palestinian Authority. He is featured on Media Monitors Network (MMN) with the courtesy of Bitterlemons.org.

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