Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Time Likud Can't

By Israel Harel
23 July 09

(This time the Likud can't? Maybe no, maybe yes. But the one thing that is clear that the platform of battle will be in the Likud. Israel Harel presents a number of points that require thought, and soon. See Moshe Feiglin's "Defeating the King of Calculations").

"Jerusalem," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, flexing a muscle, "isn't a settlement."

The following day Haaretz's Yoel Marcus came out with an exclusive report on a plan to dismantle, in one integrated operation, 23 outposts. To complete the picture, Anshel Pfeffer wrote in these pages yesterday that the Israel Defense Forces has set up a special command to evacuate the settlements.

When former prime minister Ariel Sharon wanted to drop the political bomb of his intention to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, Marcus, probably due to his and the newspaper's reputation, was the first person he told. This time, someone (who?) who sought to declare a similar intention followed his lead. After all, a similar thing happened before the disengagement; the reputation of both writer and newspaper prove that the plan is serious and the story is reliable. The fact is, the report has not been denied, either by the Prime Minister's Bureau or the defense minister's office.

Does Netanyahu intend to buy a permit to build a handful of luxury apartments in the Shepherd Hotel compound in East Jerusalem for the price of destroying the outposts (including communities like Migron, Mitzpeh Asaf, Nofei Nehemia, Ma'aleh Rehavam and others) and uprooting their 1,200-odd residents? Will Netanyahu dare to go where even Ehud Olmert feared to tread, despite the former prime minister unequivocally promising to remove the outposts? After all, without the prime minister's leadership, such a far-reaching move cannot be implemented.

Didn't the brutal "victory" in Amona prove that, even with a special command training the forces, it is impossible to use force to overcome an ideological, political, public and fundamental process that has significant public support? Even the Kadima government, which set the convergence plan as one of its main goals, couldn't overcome this process.

Is Likud the only one that can do it?

No, after the trauma of the split in the party over this issue four years ago, Likud, certainly headed by Netanyahu, no longer can. Even Sharon, who tried so hard, failed to avert the split. So it is highly unlikely that this time the uprooting will come to pass.

True, the premier can rely on the uprooting party Kadima to support the move (and use it as an excuse to join the government), and thereby prevent the government's fall, at least at this stage. But Netanyahu, with his keen political senses, knows that another split in Likud would mean political suicide for him. No party apart from Likud would make him its leader.

Another obstacle that should not be underestimated is the resistance displayed by the residents of the large settlements and their supporters. They have already lost confidence in Netanyahu's ability to thwart Washington's pressures vis-a-vis the settlements' future, unlike Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir in their day. When multitudes fight for their homes, livelihood and especially their fundamental beliefs, it is almost impossible to overpower them without causing a deep split in the nation.

Any government, certainly a Likud government, that tries to exercise illegitimate force against them will not survive.

If this assumption is incorrect and the prime minister gives the order to fight civilians with all means at his disposal, he may also bring about the collapse of the army and police. After all, there is no need to spell out the background and political positions of a considerable portion of the men currently serving in the combatant forces. The young people of Kedumim, Karnei Shomron and Elon Moreh do not seek shelter from military service in universities overseas, nor do they dodge the draft claiming mental or other health deficiencies.

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