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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Beating Olmert's convergence consolidation realignment surrender and expulsion plan

The JPost weekend magazine had a lengthy article about Ofra and its neighbor, 'Amona.' As I think I have mentioned in the past, Ofra hits home in this house. My wife's brother-in-law was one of the founders, and he and my wife's sister have lived there (literally) since their wedding night in 1979. We even had one of our Sheva Brachot (post-wedding celebrations) there.

So it's heart-rending to read this article and to realize how many of the revenants and their leadership seemingly have no clue of where the winds are blowing today and how they can beat the Olmert plan (and I still believe that it can be beaten). Here are a few quotes from the article:
One lesson seemingly taken by most ideological settlers from the lost battle against disengagement is that it wasn't aggressive enough in the street, that the tens of thousands of settlers who tried to stop the destruction of Gush Katif with their bodies, especially at Kfar Maimon, Sderot and Ofakim on the eve of the pullout, should have tried to overpower the thousands of police and soldiers and forced their way into the Gush to become human shields. "Kfar Maimon ended up like Woodstock," recalls Shimoni. "I'm against using violence, but we should have been tougher, even if it meant getting beaten. It worked in Ukraine and Nepal."

MK Benny Elon, leader of the National Union party whose election to the Knesset spared him prosecution on sedition charges for co-organizing the violent anti-Oslo demonstrations of Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land), agrees. "We should have confronted the police in Ofakim - not to hurt them, but to do like they do in Europe, not to be afraid," he says.

Yet when I ask settler activists specifically how they could have been more forceful without being violent - how tens of thousands of demonstrators, without using violence, could have rammed their way through phalanxes of tens of thousands of police and soldiers there to block their way into the Gush - no one has an answer.


During the struggle over disengagement, the "orange" camp tried non-violence - holding hands and forming a human chain while holding banners that read, "Our love will triumph" - while a few radicals tried serious violence, like spreading a potentially lethal mix of oil and "ninja" nails on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and clearing out bus stations by leaving phony "suspicious objects" containing the note, "The disengagement will blow up in our faces." In the climate of fury over Sharon's plan, a couple of Jewish fanatics murdered Arab bus riders in Shfaram and Palestinian laborers in the West Bank.

None of these tactics worked. The public ignored the mass non-violent rallies, and was repelled by the incidents of violence, which put the settler movement on the defensive and gave the government a freer hand to proceed. However, the Amona tactic of callibrated violence that provokes a "police riot" in front of the cameras may be a winning combination. At least some settlers think so.

"Of course that was a victory for us," says Ya'acov Binyamini, a married yeshiva student who has lived at the outpost for nearly three years and who was present at the Feb. 1 protest, but didn't take a hand in it - a condition he had to agree to for his IDF commander to grant him a furlough for that day. "There was a lot of blood that day - it scared me," says Binyamini, 27, walking up the road to the daycare center to pick up his two young sons.

But the clash had the desired effect, he says. "Olmert was supposed to tear down three more outposts right afterward, but he chickened out...."


"Amona was the turning point," Binyamini asserts. "Olmert came here to bust heads, and it boomeranged. We won. He won't try anything like that again. Another one or two Amonas and he's finished."

How to wage a winning popular struggle against the consolidation plan is the number one question facing the settler movement. A few leaders of the YESHA Council, the movement's dominant political arm, recently met with Yuval Porat, an in-demand political strategists and an informal adviser to the anti-disengagement campaign, to hear his ideas on how to fight Olmert. The advice he gave was sobering.

"If the YESHA Council goes into the street now with a high-profile campaign of protests, it could result in speeding up the political process toward consolidation," says Porat, co-owner of Spin Communications, which handled the Pensioners Party phenomenally successful election campaign. As yet there is no urgency moving the plan forward, he notes, but if the settlers mount an attention-grabbing challenge to it, they could unite Kadima and Labor, which are now split over economic policy, against a common enemy. And if the protests turn violent, they could turn the media and public opinion against the settlers and in favor of the government.

"Demonstrations are a very important part of a political struggle, but I don't think they will change the political situation that exists in Israel now," Porat maintains.

This is not the time for settlers to fight, he suggests, but to think. "The main problem facing the right-wing opposition," he maintains, "is that it does not offer the public an alternative to the government. It has to develop an alternative leadership and alternative platform that the public can accept."

(For those of you who read the article, please keep in mind that it was written by Larry Derfner, who is one of the Post's most left-wing columnists. He makes many cutting remarks and unsupported assertions, which I would refute if I had more time to do so. But I can't right now).

Here's my take on this (and if someone can get it through to the Yesha Council and the right wing in the Knesset, more power to you).

1. Yuval Porat is correct that there is no urgency behind the 'convergence' plan and mass demonstrations now will only push it ahead - especially if they turn violent.

2. Very few people outside of Yehuda and Shomron could care less about the revenants and all that they have sacrificed for the Zionist cause for the last forty years. Sad but true and the sooner that the revenants wake up and realize that, the more realistic they will be.

3. Most of the country is apathetic and tired of fighting. Unfortunately, Olmert really does capture the mood. We may not like it, but most of this country really just wants to be a 'normal' country like the rest of the world.

4. As I have said before, the ONLY way to beat this plan is to convince the rest of the country that this plan is not in THEIR best interests. All they care about is their best interests. They look at this as a straight up-and-down equation (except for the real leftists who have the Arabs' interest at heart): We give away territory and there will be less army duty and less reserve duty. The rest of the country has to be convinced that equation is wrong. They have to understand that if there is no IDF and no revenants in Judea and Samaria then we will be attacked in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, in Afula, at the airport, and everyplace else in this country. If the right can make Mrs. Cohen in Hadera see that, it can defeat Olmert's plan. If not, then an awful lot of people may as well start packing.


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