At Ganei Tal on Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. MK Tzvi Hendel (HaIchud
HaLeumi), one of the first settlers in Gush Katif and a
leader among the settlers for 30 years, waits. Two ranking
Air Force officers knock on the door. "In accordance with the
decision of the government and the Knesset we have come to
remove you from your home," says one of the officers, whose
stars indicate he is a major general.
Hendel and his family stand in the doorway. Behind the two
officers is a row of soldiers and policemen and a small army
Hendel's wife launches a long monologue at the evacuation
forces, a monologue intended to break their hearts.
"You're causing a rift," adds Tzvi Hendel. "None of the
officers in the army thought about how to reduce this rift.
The army cannot turn into a machine . . . "
Hendel keeps talking while his wife continues her own
monologue as well, but both the officers and the Hendels know
that within a few hours the Hendel family will be leaving
Gush Katif after 30 years here.
When the monologue finally ends the practical questions
begin. "Where are we being taken to? Who will help us pack up
the house? Nobody has come to speak with us or to offer
another place to live."
The major general murmurs a few words to the Hendels, saying
he would verify where they are being taken and be back with
an answer within a few minutes. Before he turns to leave
Hendel adds a request: "I'd like you to let me to be one of
the last ones to leave Gush Katif."
In microcosm, this was the story of the Gaza settlements:
refusal to accept the evacuation until it was staring it in
the face, a desire to release pent-up feelings, and then
questions about the future and starting anew.
The security forces prepared numerous possible scenarios for
the forced evacuation. Nobody expected the first day, or the
entire process, to go as quickly and smoothly as it did. Even
the evacuation of Yamit 25 years ago, an area much smaller
than Gush Katif, involved many more obstacles and
difficulties. Various extreme measures such as foam and cages
(to take resistors down from rooftops) stood ready but were
Before the operation began, security officials were uncertain
of whether to start with the easy settlements or the tough
ones. A decision was made to start with the "heavy" spots in
order to break down resistance--Neveh Dekalim, the capital of
Gush Katif and its strongest and largest outpost, then Morag,
followed by Netzarim a few days later.
The decision proved right. The domino effect was clearly
felt. After the fall of the harder towns the evacuation went
more smoothly. The most perturbing incident on the first day
of the forced evacuation occurred when an egg was thrown at
Labor MK Matan Vilnai.
One of the reasons for the (unexpected) success was the large
mass of security forces deployed in Gush Katif. The sight of
thousands of soldiers and policemen was quite daunting. In
the early hours of Wednesday morning a long convoy rolled out
from the Re'eim camp and headed for the Kissufim Checkpoint.
Consisting of hundreds of vehicles including buses, trucks,
police patrol cars, Military Police cars and other military
vehicles, the convoy had an intimidating effect on the
settlers, who realized that they had no way of combating such
The black uniforms the policemen wore, a disturbing decision
by operation planners that received wide criticism from both
the Right and the Left, also acted as a deterrent. "It
frightened children unnecessarily and reminded adults of
images from the past," noted an observer.
The large mass of security forces was intended to make the
evacuation faster and more efficient. The settlers kept
saying the IDF lacked the manpower to carry out the
evacuation because they would need four soldiers for every
one settler, but the IDF took heed of the situation and
mobilized as many soldiers as possible to man the six
evacuation planning rings. The first, innermost ring, that
actually carried out settlers, consisted of 15,000 soldiers
and policemen. The tremendous mass was decisive, observers
The large mass of army and police not only intimidated the
settlers, it also gave the military forces the security and
confidence that they could do the job. The soldiers who came
in contact with settlers were not armed, not even with clubs,
but as part of such large units they nonetheless did not feel
Where Were You?
"Where were you?" residents shouted at the large forces sent
in to take them away. "Where were you when they were firing
shells and Kassam rockets at us? Why didn't you come in such
large numbers to help us and prevent the mortar attacks? Why
wasn't the IDF allowed to come in during all those years and
put an end to the terrorist attacks?" These questions were
left hanging in the air, unanswered.
The soldiers had clear orders not to enter into verbal
disputes with the settlers. In some cases soldiers and
policemen tried to quietly express their sympathies for the
settlers without engaging them in debate. In numerous
instances they had to step aside for a few minutes to wipe
away tears before carrying on with their mission. Most of
them were unable to maintain the stolid expression Prime
Minister Sharon kept on his face throughout his address to
the nation about the Disengagement.
The commander of one of the evacuation teams revealed to
reporters that despite all the preparations, briefings and
exercises no words can describe the painful feelings he
experienced during the operation. "None of the preparations
we went through are helping us now," he said.
The restraint the soldiers exhibited was noted again and
again -- along with the copious tears. At times it was
unclear which side felt more pain. In an absurd remark Sharon
even described the tears flowing down his cheek as he watched
the soldiers carrying away the settlers' toys.
When we went to press last week, the news was that the IDF
was hoping to complete the evacuation of Gaza in ten days,
about half the time it originally estimated. In fact, on
Sunday, five days after it began last Wednesday (including a
break from activities on Shabbos), the IDF announced that all
the settlements of Gaza had been evacuated except Netzarim.
As we go to press, Netzarim is being evacuated peacefully. That
is/was the last Jewish settlement in the Gaza strip.
The IDF will certainly be happy to put the unpleasant task
behind them. The IDF will be able to breathe a sigh of relief
and radio the code word selected for the completion of the
entire operation: Mayim Sheketim.
From Lebanon to Gaza
The controversial operation will remain with the IDF and is
sure to go in the annals of history alongside another
controversial operation, the Peace in the Galilee War of 1982
(5742). What did the two have in common? Ariel Sharon.
During the Peace in the Galilee War Sharon was serving as
defense minister under Menachem Begin. Sharon was the main
figure behind the operation, which got the IDF and the State
of Israel entangled in a real mess.
Sharon was also responsible for engineering the Disengagement
Plan. "I call on the evacuees not to harm the security
forces," he said last week. "Harm me. I'm the only one to be
blamed for this," he let slip, as if admitting guilt.
President Katzav, who was sitting next to Sharon at the time,
was quick to clarify. "The Prime Minister did not
mean to say you should harm him, but that you should hold him
accountable and criticize him."
Katzav also put the matter in political terms, saying the
public would decide in the coming elections whether they
support the leadership that decided on this plan or not. It
will no longer help the evacuees. Even if Netanyahu or even
Landau (who has no chance) becomes prime minister it will be
impossible to go back and rebuild the Gaza Strip settlements.
Gush Katif is of the past.
Sharon is not sorry over this and is convinced (so he says)
that the plan will help Israel in every way. In his speech he
said it would allow Israel to have defendable borders and to
turn its attention to reduce poverty and social gaps. "As if
the fact of our settlement was standing in his way," said a
settler in Morag.
In private conversations with reporters he says whenever he
arrives home at his ranch at night he goes to check his
sleeping grandchildren. "I look at them and I say to myself I
am acting for the sake of their future." Nevertheless he
admits he failed to anticipate the extent of the opposition
to his plan.
On Friday, security forces completed the evacuation of Gadid
and by the weekend, Neveh Dekalim, Kfar Darom, Morag, Tel
Katifa, Shirat Hayam, Kfar Hayam, Netzer Hazani, Ganei Tal,
Gan Or, Pe'at Sadeh, Bedolach, Rafiach Yam and Kerem Atzmona
were emptied. On Sunday settlers from Slav, Katif, Dugit,
Neveh Dekalim, Atzmona, Elei Sinai and Nissanit left. The
security forces did not meet any major opposition on the part
of the evacuees.
Only 1500 Gaza infiltrators
Southern District Police commander Uri Bar-Lev said that the
number of illegal infiltrators in the Gaza Strip before the
evacuation began was less 1,500. Bar-Lev said that the figure
was based, among other sources, on the number of arrests made
On the eve of the disengagement, the police and military
estimated the infiltrators as standing between 5,000 and
8,000. Opponents of the disengagement also estimated about the
Since the pullout began on Wednesday, 949 arrests have been
made. Police released 701 detainees who were not involved in
violence against security forces.
Prisons are currently holding 310 disengagement opponents.
Twenty-four detainees, including four minors, are in
Ma'asiyahu Prison. The Dekel Prison in Be'er Sheva is holding
286 detainees, including 122 minors.
Northern Shomron Remains
There remain two settlements in the northern Shomron. Authorities
had always said that they expected those to be the most difficult
especially Sa-Nur. Police have put one Jewish activist into
adminstrative detention. Around 200 were arrested on Sunday. There are said to
be approximately 2,100 illegal infiltrators in Sa-Nur and Homesh. The
evacuation of Sa-Nur is scheduled for Tuesday. During the summer we
close our publication early, so this will be after we go to press.