* Chai Shalom, who suffered from cerebral palsy, and was deaf, mute and confined to a wheelchair, died as a result of being hit by a Qassam rocket, yet the BBC, New York Times, Guardian and others don’t deem it worthy of mention on their websites
* A newborn Gazan baby with congenital heart complications was rushed to hospital in Israel in a humanitarian act of great bravery while the Israeli ambulance ducked Qassam rockets flying overhead
This dispatch mainly concerns medical help given by Israeli doctors worldwide – at the very same time that 130 British doctors (including some extreme left-wing Jews) are lobbying for Israel to be the only country to be expelled from the International Medical Association.
1. Chai Shalom, 13, suffered from cerebral palsy
2. Gaza baby treated by Israeli hospital
3. Israeli surgeons restore eyesight to patients in developing countries
4. Israeli doctors help Vietnamese children
5. Pro-Israel ads to counter misinformation on Washington DC subway
6. Israeli films win prizes at Cannes
7. Real Madrid to visit Israel
8. Israeli economy in longest sustained period of growth
9. “Israeli party leader says ‘tough measures’ needed against rocket attacks” (Ma’ariv, May 24, 2007)
10. “The fruits of disengagement” (Outpost, May 2007)
11. “State of siege: Israel flourishes amid the bombs” (Times of London, May 21, 2007)
CHAI SHALOM, 13, SUFFERED FROM CEREBRAL PALSY
Another Israeli boy died this morning of wounds sustained in a Qassam rocket attack. Thirteen-year-old Chai Shalom, who suffered from cerebral palsy, and was deaf, mute and confined to a wheelchair, was hospitalized last week after a Hamas rocket landed next to a bus transporting him and three other disabled children in Sderot. All four children were wounded by the blast. Ironically, “Chai” means “life” in Hebrew, and “shalom” means “peace.”
Israel Radio and others have reported on the child’s death but the BBC, Guardian, New York Times and others, don’t deem it worthy of mention on their websites today.
Meanwhile, Qassams continue to rain down on southern Israel. This morning one hit a power line in Sderot causing a temporary blackout throughout the city.
At the same time, almost unreported in the international media, internal Palestinian violence continues. On Tuesday, for example, a judge was wounded in a shooting attack, and the Director General of the Palestinian Finance Ministry was abducted by a group of 15 gunmen in Gaza.
GAZA BABY TREATED BY ISRAELI HOSPITAL
A newborn Gazan baby with congenital heart complications was rushed to Israel on Sunday in a humanitarian act of great bravery while Qassam rockets flew overhead.
An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance took the eight-day-old Palestinian baby from Gaza to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. This came on the same day that 36-year-old Israeli Oshri Oz was killed by a Qassam rocket in Sderot.
Unreported by the international media, Israeli ambulances transfer patients from the Gaza Strip to Israeli hospitals on an almost daily basis. According to Dr Dudi Mishali, head of the Department of Pediatric & Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery at the hospital next to Tel Aviv, an average of three Palestinian babies with heart defects come to his department alone every week.
Mishali said “We have daily communications by phone and fax with doctors in Gaza. There is no heart surgeon in the Strip, so they transfer all of these children, and there are many, to be operated on here.” The expenses are largely paid for by the hospital.
At the same time, and as reported on this email list / website, dozens of British doctors are calling for the Israeli Medical Association to be expelled from the World Medical Association.
In response to the British doctors petition against Israeli doctors, Dr. Amir Vardi, a physician in a pediatric critical care department in central Israel, posted this video on YouTube.
(In a separate but related development, by a two-to-one vote, Britain’s largest academic trade union yesterday decided to back a boycott of universities in Israel. In response, Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir questioned the morality of bashing Israel while Israeli students are studying under the threat of Palestinian rockets in Sderot. Social Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog – who like Tamir is a member of Israel’s left-leaning Labor Party – called the resolution “scandalous and one-sided”.)
ISRAELI SURGEONS RESTORE EYESIGHT TO PATIENTS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Israeli surgeons are restoring eyesight to patients in developing countries around the world through a mission sponsored by MASHAV (Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Centre for International Cooperation).
For example, a recent mission saw Israeli surgeons travel to Muslim Uzbekistan, where they carried out a large number of cataract surgeries. Each doctor performs about nine cataract surgeries per day totaling more than 100 operations in two weeks overseas.
Israeli eye surgeon Dr. Emmanuel Schwalb, who has visited Uzbekistan for the past four years, says that “cases were much more difficult than normal surgery in Israel, because when cataracts are not operated on at the appropriate time, they get harder. Most of the patients were blind from cataracts.”
“In Israel most of our patients can see partially but they can’t read or drive so we perform the surgery to improve quality of life. But in Uzbekistan surgery is done to turn a blind man into a seeing man. The day after surgery when we take off the bandages, they’re looking at each other crying – these are the kinds of images I can never forget. It’s something amazing.”
“Uzbekistan is a Moslem country,” says Schwalb, “so we were surprised by the kindness of the people and the good words they had for Israeli doctors. There was no talk of war or of fear but just admiration for the Israeli people and government that sent us. Just gratefulness to Israel. It was a very nice feeling.”
The MASHAV program also brings doctors from third world countries, such as Cameroon, to receive hands-on training in Israel’s hospitals.
“Israel is not a rich country. We have lots of problems and a continuous war,” says Dr. Dan Sachs, head of Tel Hashomer Medical Center’s Cataract Department, who recently returned from Uzbekistan. “MASHAV sends a lot of missions and each mission costs at least $15,000. But I don’t know of another state that does the same,” he says.
ISRAELI DOCTORS HELP VIETNAMESE CHILDREN
In a similar initiative to the MASHAV program mentioned above, Israel is providing medical care and financial aid to the poor in remote parts of Vietnam.
According to a report on ChinaDaily.com, Israel this month sent over 50 doctors and nurses to volunteer at Vietnamese clinics in a weeklong mission costing $50,000. They treated 2,500 Vietnamese children who in most cases had never seen a doctor before.
PRO-ISRAEL ADS TO COUNTER MISINFORMATION ON WASHINGTON DC SUBWAY
This note is a follow-up to Anti-Israel ads on Washington subway (& Why not El Salvador?) (April 30, 2007).
In response to the poster ads placed on the Washington DC subway by the “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation,” the pro-Israeli group StandWithUs has launched a counter campaign.
A press release said they have “launched a month-long ad campaign from mid-May through June 11, urging Palestinians to teach their children peace instead of hate, and urging Palestinian extremists to reform.”
The ads appear in 20 downtown Washington DC metro stations “to counter the misinformation in an anti-Israel ad campaign scheduled to run in the stations concurrently.”
The International Director of StandWithUs Roz Rothstein (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list), described the pro-Palestinian campaign as “deceptive and emotionally manipulative. Israel is not fighting children. It is defending itself against extremists like Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad.”
ISRAELI FILMS WIN PRIZES AT CANNES
Two Israeli films won prizes at the 60th Cannes International Film Festival last weekend.
“Bikur Hatizmoret” (The Band’s Visit), a comic drama about a visit by an Egyptian police band to Israel in the 1990s, won one award, and “Meduzot” (Jellyfish), a story of three Tel Aviv women, received another.
Also, at the Munich International Documentary Film Festival, Israel chalked up another success with a first prize for the documentary film Nine-Star Hotel.
Juliette Binoche, the Academy Award winning French actress, has agreed to star in a film entitled “Disengagement” which will explore the human drama surrounding the 2005 expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gaza and the northern West Bank.
REAL MADRID TO VISIT ISRAEL
The soccer superstars of Real Madrid are to visit Israel on June 19 to play an exhibition match against a team of Israeli and Palestinian players.
The club was invited by the (Shimon) Peres Center for Peace. The Center previously brought the Brazilian superstar Ronaldo and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to Israel.
Latest reports say Real Madrid’s English star David Beckham may not come, because of differences with the club’s management prior to his move in July to the United States, where he has signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
For more on Beckham see “Mazal tov Beckham, you’re Jewish” (& World’s oldest living married couple) (Aug. 8, 2005).
In other soccer news, the Israeli national team captain Yossi Benayoun has become the highest-paid Israeli sportsman ever after he signed a new five-year contract with his English club team West Ham worth about $4.5 million a year.
ISRAELI ECONOMY IN LONGEST SUSTAINED PERIOD OF GROWTH
The Israeli economy grew by an annualized 6.3% in the first quarter of 2007, after growing by 7.3% in the preceding quarter, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Sunday. Since mid-2003, the economy has grown by 18.3 percent, the longest sustained period of growth since modern Israel won independence in 1948. Over the last year the standard of living has risen by 10%.
Figures also just released indicate that Israel’s trade with ten central and east European countries in the three years since they joined the EU has almost doubled, while business with the 15 established EU members rose to $22.6bn in 2006.
In a further indication of the strength of the Israeli economy, Israel’s unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 7.7 percent in the first quarter, the lowest since the second quarter of 1997.
As a sign of Israeli economic progress, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has approved a decision to open accession discussions with Israel. The decision to invite Israel to begin the process of joining the OECD is considered an important diplomatic achievement, and pushes Israel firmly into the developed world.
Much of Israel’s economic success is thanks to the policies of Stanley Fischer, whom Benjamin Netanyahu lured away from Citibank to become Governor of the Bank of Israel. Fischer has done such a good job in Israel that he was on President Bush’s shortlist to replace Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank. (In the event, Bush announced yesterday that he would instead nominate Robert Zoellick, a career diplomat and trade negotiator.)
I attach three articles below. The first is from Ma’ariv. Israeli centrist politician Yosef (Tommy) Lapid says no other country in the world would put up with what Israel has put up with the ongoing Qassam attacks from Gaza into Israel, year after year.
The second, by Roger A. Gerber, examines the after-effects of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. Unfortunately, the 2005 withdrawal did not promote peace. Instead, rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel have risen four-fold.
The third, from the Times of London business section, says that Israel is the “most impressive economic success story of the modern Middle East.”
-- Tom Gross
“DISENGAGEMENT PROFOUNDLY DISFIGURED THE MORAL LANDSCAPE”
The fruits of disengagement
By Roger A. Gerber
May 2007 Issue
Juliette Binoche, the Academy Award winning French actress, has agreed to star in a film entitled “Disengagement” which will explore the human drama surrounding the 2005 expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria and the withdrawal of Israel’s armed forces from Gaza. Apparently the impact of the so-called disengagement plan resonates beyond the borders of Israel, although its ramifications reverberate most deeply within those borders.
In the wake of his overwhelming 2003 election victory over Amram Mitzna, who had proposed that Israel unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, Ariel Sharon thrust his “disengagement” plan upon a surprised Israeli public in 2004. Sharon explained to William Safire: “I discussed this between me and myself and came up with a new initiative.” During the election campaign Sharon had forcefully rejected Mitzna’s proposal stating: “A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war.” And subsequently, according to Mitzna’s own account, Sharon lectured him “on the strategic importance of Netzarim and the historic importance of Kfar Darom.” After much controversy, Sharon’s plan was forcibly implemented by the IDF and the police in August 2005.
In a televised speech to the nation literally on the eve of the implementation of his plan, Prime Minister Sharon promised: “The disengagement will allow us to look inward. Our national agenda will change. In our economic policy, we will be free to turn to closing social gaps and to waging a real fight on poverty. We will advance education and increase the personal security of every citizen in the country.” Not one of these assertions has been validated by events.
Instead, as its many critics predicted, the plan has been a complete failure. Ha’aretz’s prominent dovish commentator Yoel Marcus, to whom Sharon had revealed his disengagement plan in a famous interview in February 2004, wrote (November 21, 2006): “Regrettably, it is now becoming clear that the most extreme and pessimistic Jewish settlers are the ones who were right. The Palestinians do not want to recognize Israel or come to terms with its existence.” (In August 2005, on the eve of the expulsions from Gaza, Marcus had written, “When the withdrawal is complete, Israel will be the darling of the world.”) Another prominent supporter of disengagement, Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, wrote (June 29, 2006): “As an early Israeli supporter of unilateral disengagement, I admit that this plan, like the earlier Oslo ‘peace process,’ has failed.” Former IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Ya’alon also was blunt: “There is no doubt that the disengagement failed. The failure was to be expected.”
A poll taken on behalf of Israel Army Radio just a few months after the plan’s implementation found that fully 70% believed that plan did not contribute to peace and a majority said disengagement was “of no practical value” (Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2006). Even Prime Minister Olmert weakly allowed that the Gaza disengagement “proved that maybe a unilateral process has its weaknesses…”
The parlous consequences of the plan are so extensive and of such depth that only a brief summary can be attempted in this article:
1. A terror base
Gaza has become a base for terror that, with Iranian assistance, threatens much of southern Israel within the Green Line. Maj-Gen. Yoav Galant, currently Head of IDF’s Southern Command, writes that “rocket launchings toward Ashkelon, Sderot and other places are a daily occurrence, averaging 50 to 60 rockets per month…”
The most salient threat is to Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 and the site of Israel’s major desalination plant, a key electric power station generating about 40% of Israel’s electric power, chemical storage facilities and the oil pipeline from Eilat. Ashkelon is located about six miles from the northern border of the Gaza Strip and from the former Israeli villages of Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit, which were established over twenty years ago as a buffer protecting Ashkelon and other towns in the area. It is these former Israeli villages that are now used to train terrorists and to launch rockets upon the populations of Sderot, Ashkelon and other communities.
Even such a strong supporter of the disengagement as the very dovish Ami Ayalon, former naval commander and General Security Services Chief and currently candidate for Labor Party leader in the April primary, wanted to make an exception of them, asserting in May 2005 that “there is no reason at all to evacuate the three northern Gaza communities.”
It was reported on July 5, 2006 that “a buffer zone will be created in the northern part of the Strip in order to prevent Kassam fire;” this is of course precisely the function the three settlements on the northern Gaza border fulfilled prior to their destruction. Labor Knesset member, and currently deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, averred that there is “no escape from prolonged ground presence at the launch sites” – this just ten months after the disengagement. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Some withdrawal! Some disengagement!
2. Increased Likelihood of Gaza War
Alex Fishman, security commentator for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, reported on March 14, 2007 that war in Gaza is “beginning to look inevitable” as the result of the incessant rocket and other terror attacks. In March 2007 the Director of Israel’s General Security Services (Shabak) warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Kiryat Gat, only 36 miles south of Tel Aviv, is likely to fall within the range of improved rockets developed in, or smuggled into Gaza. Yuval Diskin of Shin Bet forecasts that as many as 200,000 Israelis within a 12 mile range of Gaza will be under the threat of missile fire this year.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon has stated “If we want to go on living, we may have no other choice than to launch an Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza.” Steven Erlanger reported in The New York Times (April 1, 2007) that Diskin and current IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are worried that the current “calm” is utilized by Hamas “to consolidate its power in Gaza and enhance its military capacities.” “If the Hamas buildup continues, and the rockets and tunnels continue, at the end of the day we will have to do something about it,” Diskin said.
3. Terrorists Have Free Hand to Smuggle Weapons and Train for War
Hamas has established an army of at least 8,000 fighters, some of whom have been trained in Iran. Now that Israel has relinquished the protective Philadelphi Corridor – which it was entitled to retain under the Oslo accords – Hamas is free to equip itself with weaponry manufactured locally and smuggled in through Sinai. (Israel’s former Southern Command chief Gen. Doron Almog had warned Israeli control of the Corridor was essential to insure deterrence, interdiction of weapons, and swift reprisal when required). In addition, Hamas has over 10,000 additional security forces and Fatah has several thousand of its own fighters. Maj-Gen. Galant recently wrote: “The Palestinians in Gaza are well organized in four brigades … each with its own commander. They have battalions, companies and platoons, as well as special forces dealing with sniping, infantry, explosives and anti-tank weapons. All the know-how is brought in from abroad – from Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, and everything is following a plan. This is an organization with leadership, a doctrine, structure, training, weaponry, manpower and a goal – to establish a serious military force in Gaza.” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, April 19, 2007).
In surrendering the Philadelphi Corridor, Israel basically lost control of the influx of both weapons and terrorists. Both can now pass through the crossing unhindered (Haaretz, February 8, 2006). Diskin has warned that Gaza could become another Lebanon.
Nor are the perilous consequences limited to Gaza; Diskin admits that since the withdrawal from four Jewish towns in northern Samaria the IDF has found it increasingly difficult to control the area and the intelligence arm has had greater difficulty gathering information. “Samaria has become the land of Islamic Jihad following the disengagement,” Diskin stated.
4. Economic Costs
In contrast to the economic dividend that Sharon and his supporters declared would now improve the quality of life in Israel, disengagement has proved extremely costly. Aside from the huge cost of carrying out the disengagement itself, it will cost $400,000,000 to reinforce homes and provide shelters in Sderot and the four other towns close to Gaza. This does not include the cost of reinforcing homes and facilities in and around Ashkelon. The water commissioner has estimated that it will cost billions of dollars to deal with the threat to the desalination plant posed by the raw sewage coming on the coastal current from Gaza.
Then there is the incalculable cost of military measures that have been and will be taken to address the new terror threats and rocket attacks from Gaza. This includes the costs attendant upon the military actions in Gaza following the murder of two Israeli soldiers within the Green Line and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Finally, there are the huge economic costs stemming from the dislocation of 25 communities, the loss of a large percentage of Israel’s agricultural export earnings, and the continuing costs of caring for thousands of internal Jewish refugees from Gaza.
5. Incentives to Terrorists
There is ample evidence that the Palestinians perceive the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a victory for terrorism and it is likely that the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections is attributable in large part to the disengagement. Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki reported that “more than three quarters of the Palestinians view the pullout as a victory for the armed struggle.” (cnsnews.com, June 28, 2005)
The Palestinians also regard the IDF withdrawal as a precedent for compelling future Israeli withdrawals. Hamas-controlled television has recently broadcast numerous times – as often as seven a day – a statement by the late Sheikh Yassin linking the retreat from Netzarim to the imagined future retreat from Tel Aviv, concluding: “Tel Aviv is gone. They are defeated, they have no words left.”
On the first anniversary of the IDF total withdrawal from Gaza, Yoel Marcus wrote: “Netanyahu was right when he said that quitting Lebanon and Gaza without agreements would be interpreted by the Palestinians as a victory for them and a sign of our weakness. That Hamas and Hezbollah have grown stronger after our departure is not accidental.” (September 12, 2006). In The New York Times Steven Erlanger quotes a senior American official: “If Hamas believes that Israel can’t deal with casualties, and that it won the war for Gaza, why shouldn’t it transfer resistance to the West Bank?” (May 26, 2005). In the words of former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, “Palestinian terrorism has been rewarded and encouraged, and Israel will have to suffer the consequences.”
6. Morale in Israel Undermined
Prior to disengagement, in a speech to the Israel Policy Forum (June 9, 2005), then Vice Premier Ehud Olmert promised that disengagement would “bring more security, greater safety, more prosperity, and a lot of joy” for Middle East peoples. In fact, said Olmert, “everything depends on the success of this disengagement.”
On the contrary, says Ya’alon, disengagement vitiated all of Israel’s achievements in fighting terror during the campaign of 2003. As he put it, with the implementation of the disengagement “everything went haywire.” (Haaretz, July 6, 2006). The daily rocket attacks on Sderot and the Ashkelon area have killed and maimed several Israelis, caused trauma to the populace and led some residents to abandon their homes. Israelis have come to realize, especially after last summer’s Lebanon war, that their leadership is incompetent; one poll found Prime Minister Olmert had the support of only 3% of the populace.
Dan Schueftan of the University of Haifa, author of a 1999 book (in Hebrew) entitled Disengagement, widely regarded as the major intellectual influence on the formulation of Sharon’s plan, admitted in an astonishing interview in The Jerusalem Post (April 5, 2007) that disengagement “has nothing whatsoever to do with peace” and concessions and withdrawals by Israel only arouse more hostility and increase the likelihood of terrorism. He avers that the strengthening of Israeli society was the principal purpose of disengagement.
Far from achieving this, in the judgment of Daniel Pipes, disengagement has “divided Israel in ways that may poison the body politic for decades.” Former Foreign Minister Moshe Arens called the forcible expulsion of Jewish citizens from their homes, businesses and even cemeteries “an act of barbarism that would not be countenanced anywhere else in the Western world.” (Haaretz, August 2, 2005).
Moreover disengagement did not really even disengage Israel from Gaza. As Nadav Haetzni wrote presciently: “Whatever happens, there will be no disengagement. The implementation of Sharon’s plan will booby-trap Israel: the more power is left in its hands – at border crossings, in the security ‘envelope’ – we’ll be perceived as responsible for everything in the Gaza Strip. The more power we relinquish, the more dangerous the freedom of action granted to the terror state that will arise… Real disengagement from the Palestinians won’t take place, but emergent disengagement among the various components of Israeli society will definitely be achieved.” (Maariv, August 15, 2005).
7. Perilous Precedents For Future Negotiations
Israel withdrew its forces from every inch of Gaza all the way to the Green Line, and destroyed every one of its settlements, thus, as was noted earlier, setting a dangerous precedent for future negotiations over Judea and Samaria. In addition, as Gen. Ya’alon points out, the precedent of destroying settlements with nothing in return will likely haunt Israel. Despite Israel’s past insistence on demilitarization and border control, the Gaza disengagement was implemented with no provision for demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. Not only was there no quid pro quo for the withdrawal and the expulsions, but Israel did not even obtain formal international recognition that it had fully ended its occupation of Gaza and was relieved of any further responsibility in respect of the Strip.
8. Diminished Training of IDF Affected Performance in Lebanon War
Maj. Gen Yiftah Ron-Tal attributed the decline in the IDF capabilities in Lebanon to the inordinate amount of time spent training for the disengagement instead of training for warfare against Israel’s enemies. It should be noted that about 50,000 soldiers and police were mobilized for dealing with the expulsion of Jews from Gaza compared to about 30,000 soldiers at the peak of the Hezbollah war in Lebanon.
9. Gaza Disengagement Prompted Hezbollah War
The then Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, who as a cabinet minister in the Sharon government voted in support of disengagement, now believes that it “neither contributed to the security of Israel nor to peace.” Hanegbi says that the expulsion of Jews from Gaza was interpreted as weakness “and this weakness prompted attacks in Gaza and along the northern border.” (ynet news, October 5, 2006).
10. Diminution of Democracy in Israel
A serious adverse consequence of disengagement was the stifling of dissent and the attenuation of democratic norms. The level of suppression by the Sharon government, including outright suppression of the right to assembly and to hold demonstrations, led Natan Sharansky, in Sharon’s presence, to remark at a cabinet meeting that “It is frightening to see how an entire public of law-abiding citizens who oppose the disengagement are being de-legitimized.”
When he was advised that polls of the Likud showed he would win, Sharon had arranged for, and pledged to abide by, a vote of the Likud party membership on his disengagement plan. However, when the vote went against Sharon by a 3-2 margin, he repudiated his pledge. Despite the deep national divisions, he rejected the suggestion that a national referendum be held, even though Uri Dan, his long time supporter and confidant, wrote that “only a referendum will restore to Sharon the moral-political legitimacy needed to execute the plan.” Moshe Arens stated that the disengagement would be “inconceivable in any democratic society in this day and age”. Even Yoel Marcus, when he was still an enthusiastic supporter of “disengagement”, wrote that the government’s procedures engendered “this gnawing feeling of disgust inside me”.
11. The Continuing Degradation of the Internal Jewish Refugees from Gaza
On the eve on the expulsions, in his televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Sharon promised the Jewish residents who were about to be expelled from their homes: “...we shall not abandon you and after the evacuation we will do everything to rebuild your lives and communities anew.” Yet, as of the end of 2006, a study by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor revealed that only 56.8% of the Gaza expellees were employed (in contrast to 80% prior to disengagement). The average monthly salary among the expellees decreased sharply from $2,093 prior to disengagement to $1,281 in 2006, a drop of 39%.
In addition to a decrease in their standard of living, the expellees are faced with living in transitory housing accommodations, exacerbated family tensions leading to a rise in divorce and other familial difficulties and temporary schooling for their children. In no sense can it be said that adequate preparations were made by the government to help those expelled from their homes in the transition to a normal life.
This is even more outrageous when one considers that both Labor and Likud governments over the years encouraged Israelis to build communities in Gaza with the understanding that they would remain in place on a permanent basis.
12. Weakening of Position vis a vis the United States
The disengagement plan met with an unenthusiastic reception in Washington and it took several trips for the Sharon government to convince the Bush administration to support it. In its aftermath, the diminution of Israel’s deterrent capability, combined with the weakening of Israeli society, and the facilitating of a new terrorist safe haven in Gaza all detract from Israel’s reliability as an ally. Further, the fact that Israel on its own volition forcibly expelled its citizens en masse from their homes and businesses in 25 communities, with no quid pro quo of any kind, only increases the pressure upon Israel to do likewise in the future. Sharon’s statements that President Bush’s pledges to him constitute the quid pro quo reveal a lack of understanding of the American system of government, and recall President Eisenhower’s pledge to keep open the Straits of Tiran–a pledge which was dishonored a decade later when Egypt threatened to bar passage of Israeli ships prior to the Six Day War.
One must conclude that disengagement was a complete failure on every level (a “disaster” Nobel Laureate Prof. Robert Aumann told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee) and that Israel’s re-engagement with Gaza to defend itself will cost many lives. “What we had,” states Lt. Gen Moshe Ya’alon, “was disengagement from reality and disengagement from the truth. The entire process created a false hope that was not based on strategy or facts.” The precedent, established by Sharon’s disengagement plan, that an area relinquished to the control of the Palestinians should be forcibly cleared of every Jewish inhabitant (Prime Minister Sharon designated Gaza as “a region where Jews will not be living in any future agreement”) runs counter to every moral and legal norm, not to mention common sense.
As Natan Sharansky has pointed out, if we cannot conceive of Jews living under Palestinian rule in an area relinquished by Israel, then that terrain should not be relinquished at all. Thus, in every respect, disengagement profoundly disfigured the moral landscape and damaged even further the prospect for reaching any kind of modus vivendi between Israel and its neighbors.
ISRAEL FLOURISHES AMID THE BOMBS
State of siege: Israel flourishes amid the bombs
By Gabriel Rozenberg
The Times of London
May 21, 2007
A bloody and costly war, the constant threat of terror attacks, a string of political scandals and a land almost devoid of natural resources. Only in Israel could this be the backdrop for the most impressive economic success story of the modern Middle East.
Despite the war with Lebanon, 2006 was a golden year for the economy of the region’s only liberal democracy. GDP grew by 5.1 per cent, competitiveness improved sharply and the stock market surged.
Israel came fifteenth in the World Economic Forum’s global competitive index, topping the list of Middle East states and up from 23rd place the previous year. Its nearest regional rival, the United Arab Emirates, came 32nd.
In recent years, this small state has turned itself into a “world technology powerhouse”, according to Augusto López Claros, the WEF’s chief economist. Much of the credit must go to Binyamin Netanyahu, who as Finance Minister in 2003 cut a deal with the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, that gave him free rein to push through market reforms. Mr Netanyahu sold off state assets, liberalised Israel’s monolithic banks and slashed its corporation taxes.
One firm in particular has become a symbol of Israel’s strength in research and development-heavy industry: Iscar, the world’s second-largest maker of cutting tools. Tool factories are expected to be dirty, but Iscar is different. All the floors are painted bright yellow, encouraging staff to keep them clean.
Not that there are many workers around. The company prides itself on its levels of automation, which enables the plant to be run at night by one person, at home, on their computer. Instead, around 10 per cent of the staff work on R&D.
The family-owned firm became world-famous overnight when the investing guru Warren Buffett bought 80 per cent of the business for $4 billion, in his largest overseas acquisition to date and one of the biggest foreign investment deals in the history of the Jewish state.
Cause, perhaps, for some long-overdue optimism in a troubled region.