Welcome to Gaza Prison. No one enters or leaves except under Israel’s supervision. Deep unemployment, hunger and despair continue to grip the territory. Murders and kidnappings are routine. The streets roil in chaos. Coverage is minimal in Israel’s media. Who gives a damn! It’s no longer our business!
Two post-disengagement surveys reveal what everyone already knew: the Left wants Sharon forever. As for the Sharon-Peres government, more than half the Yahad (Meretz) voters support it. Half the Labor Party members prefer a government headed by Sharon. The Labor Party has lost the will to live as an independent force. One doesn’t need it in order to implement its old slogan, “We here and them (the Palestinians) there!” Sharon implements this with resounding success. And let us not forget the owner of the slogan’s copyright, Ehud Barak. He has withdrawn as a candidate for Labor’s top post in order to leave the two elders on their lofty seats. Why change a winning team, after all? With his irrepressible optimism, Peres has defined the Gaza Strip as the “rough draft of a state.” Thus he soothes the conscience of his supporters, whom he has hitched to Sharon’s chariot until the elections of November 2006.
What is the secret of Sharon’s charm? He achieves for the Left its minimal program for solving the Palestinian problem. He alone is able to withdraw a bit from the Territories while preserving the national consensus. That consensus exists, indeed, but if Labor had been the one to propose disengagement (as it did, in fact, during the brief stewardship of Amram Mitzna), it wouldn’t have happened. The Labor members can clap for joy, seeing Sharon carry out “their” plan. They fail to understand, however, that they are getting ever more distant from the place they love: the cabinet room.
But let us leave the dismal shambles of the Labor Party and glance farther left. What’s up in Peace Now? Lately this movement has published advertisements calling for the evacuation of 26 isolated settlements in the West Bank, among them Hebron, Talmon, Tekoa, Adura, Eilon Moreh, Maon, Yitzhar and Itamar. Instead of insisting on an end to the Occupation as demanded by international law, Peace Now appears to have fallen in behind Sharon. It’s as if it were saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers, so let’s make use of Sharon within the framework of what he can actually accomplish. Let’s keep the momentum of leaving Gaza but shift it to parts of the West Bank.” By making a distinction between these 26 “isolated settlements” and the others (thus cozying up to the consensus), Peace Now risks losing its principles.