Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Av 5765 - August 25, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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It's All Over in Gush Katif

By M Plaut and Betzalel Kahn, Gush Katif

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 of reporters.

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 not needed.

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 large numbers.

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 later commented.

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 threatened.

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 so far.

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 same amount.

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.


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