Hanegbi: Pullout opponents are going too far

By David Horovitz July 29, 2005

‘You can’t, in the hope of thwarting disengagement, be prepared to create social chaos,’ says Likud minister

Likud Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi, a consistent opponent of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy, on Thursday urged those leading the campaign against the pullout to abandon efforts to persuade soldiers to refuse orders.

He also urged them to stop encouraging supporters to infiltrate into Gaza and to stand up more firmly and decisively against extremist anti-pullout activists like those who issued a death curse against the prime minister.

Asked why he had not resigned in protest over the planned pullout, he said that while he did not think the program was ‘good enough for me to vote for,’ he also did not regard it as being ‘the disaster its opponents describe it as. I don’t see it as the end of Zionism, the end of settlement, the collapse of the state and those other apocalyptic assessments. They’re not credible to me.’

Hanegbi, who 23 years ago was a student leader in the struggle against the evacuation of the Sinai settlements, stressed that he identified with the anti-disengagement protests, but pleaded with their leadership not to get ‘addicted to the tactical aspects of the struggle.’

If the campaign was mishandled, he warned, its leaders and supporters would end up undermining one of the central ideas that underpinned it, the need to maximize support against further, imposed pullbacks in the future.

He said he knew that some leaders of the struggle were uncertain about the appropriate tactics and urged them to recognize that ‘you can’t give legitimacy to refusal, you can’t give legitimacy to violence… You can’t, in the hope of thwarting disengagement, be prepared to create social chaos.’

At Yamit, he noted, ‘not a single soldier was harmed’ and the leadership of the struggle was obsessive in ensuring there was no violence. ‘It didn’t even contemplate activity that might endanger life and limb.’ That mindset, he said, was not sufficiently prevalent today.

It was not good enough, he said, for anti-pullout leaders to make declarations ruling out violence, while at the same organizing mass protests of a kind that would almost inevitably lead to confrontation and violence. Arranging a march that would require passing through police and soldiers deployed to prevent infiltration into the Gaza Strip, for instance, was ‘not legitimate,’ he said. And saying that those soldiers would be passed but that there would be no violence was disingenuous.

As for the ‘A Jew does not expel a Jew’ slogan, Hanegbi said, that phrasing meant ‘that the soldier-Jew decides not to carry out an order to expel another Jew’ and thus constituted a call for refusal. ‘Well, that gives another soldier the legitimacy to decide that he won’t protect a Jew who lives in Ariel or Hebron or east Jerusalem. It’s a recipe for a rift that will destroy the capacity to live here as a consensual state. You cannot gloss over that danger because you are so consumed by the struggle against disengagement.’

At the time of the Lebanon war, said Hanegbi, ‘the Left was smart enough not to identity with the group that advocated refusal’ because it realized this would exclude it from the Israeli mainstream. ‘In part of the rightist camp, they are making the mistake that the Left didn’t. Out of despair, frustration or hope that refusal will be an effective tool in thwarting disengagement,’ he said, some of those involved in the struggle were prepared to live with the consequences. The leadership, he said, had to make plain that this was unacceptable.

It was also an obligation of leadership, he said, not to allow extremists to hijack the struggle. The main leadership of the campaign, he added, ‘says it’s not us – we’re not pouring oil and throwing nails [onto the road] and carrying out the pulsa denura. True, it’s all not them.’ But because the leadership was intent on ‘maintaining consensus’ in the struggle, it was not decisively condemning such actions, nor doing so ‘from the heart.’

He said he understood the campaigners’ frustrations. ‘They organized a human chain, the whole country’s been turned orange, they won over the Likud… and yet they’re being scoffed at.’ But they had to act within ‘iron principles.’

He doubted that most Israelis opposed the pullout – indeed most of the public was indifferent but prepared to respect Sharon’s decision, he said. But if the opponents believed the majority was with them, they should ‘find a way to express that… Do what they did in the Ukraine: Bring half a million people into a public square for weeks. That ultimately might have sufficient effect to bring about a delay.’

At the same time, he said, the only realistic prospect of the pullout being stopped at this late stage was if there were an upsurge in Palestinian violence – attacks on settlements, rockets on Sderot – and then, ‘maybe, under the headline ‘No pullout under fire,’ there would be a freeze.’

Hanegbi stressed that he would continue to vote ‘no’ when the cabinet was asked to approve the dismantling of specific settlements, but that his would likely be one of no more than four dissenting voices – the others being Binyamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Katz and possibly Dan Naveh.

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