Migron on the Mediterranean 

Friday, December 26, 2003

I had a weird dream the other night. I was at the Sharon’s Sycamore Ranch and Gilad Sharon arrived with seven fat sheep. His brother Omri followed with seven lean sheep, which attacked and devoured Gilad’s fat sheep. The next scene in the dream had a similar theme: an apple tree with luscious fruit was overtaken by a tree with worm-infested crabapples.

I woke up puzzled by this dream. After all, shouldn’t Gilad be the one with the lean sheep and Omri with the portly ones? (Reminder: Both Sharon boys are swell, but only Gilad is svelte.) And what’s with the apples?

I checked the Bible for the story of the cows and stalks of corn in the dream that Joseph interpreted: the biblical patriarch correctly understood pharaoh’s dream as foretelling a seven-year period of plenty, to be followed by a seven-year drought. Well, we did have seven pretty good years from 1993-2000, and it may be that we’re in for a seven-year tailspin. But what does this have to do with the two Sharon brothers?

Later that morning, I learned the answer. Omri Sharon was interviewed on Army Radio about his role in the Greek Island affair. The previous day the TV news showed a videotape recording of Omri disparaging contractor David Appel’s plan to develop a gambling resort on a Greek island as “megalomaniac.” Omri noted that Appel’s dream was for this project to earn a lot of money that could be used to “pay a big group and conduct a sort of voluntary transfer of people… to pay people to leave the region.”

The mind works in funny ways – especially when dreaming. I began to understand that the biblical allusion to Joseph was close, but off mark a bit. The story of pharaoh’s dream just so happens to be this week’s Torah portion, but the real biblical precedent in my dream was Noah and the flood. Pay attention, because the explanation is going to come fast now and it includes a major scoop: my dream actually reveals papa Sharon’s ultimate vision for Israel.

According to this plan (codenamed “Appel pie”), proceeds from the Greek island slot machines would be invested in the biggest (yes, even “megalomaniac”) construction project since Noah’s ark. The plan starts with the digging of a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea. This idea has been around for a long time and includes a vision of hydroelectric power produced as the water descends toward the lowest place on earth.

Before the water reaches the Dead Sea, however, it will be diverted toward the center of the West Bank. As the floodwaters rise, the Palestinian residents will flee their residences of their own accord (voluntary transfer) via a special gate in the separation wall. (The real purpose of the wall, by the way, is to hold in these waters, leaving the Palestinian towns and villages submerged.).

In a humanitarian gesture sure to win world support, Israel will then agree to airlift the Palestinians to Appel’s Greek island. (The size of the island will grow, of course, as the Mediterranean recedes, draining into the West Bank.) Meanwhile, the Jewish settlers on the hilltop outposts will be rewarded for their steadfastness with an ocean view: the modest caravans at Migron, for example, will suddenly become beachfront properties.

Former prime minister Netanyahu is obviously privy to this plan. This explains his recent statement that the real demographic problem Israel faces is posed by Arab citizens of the state. After all, the “Appel pie” plan will take care of the demographic issue in the West Bank.

It’s a relief to have deciphered this dream, but it was also exhausting. I’m going back to sleep now. Pleasant dreams.

Dying for a mistake in Gaza 

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

In 1971, as the United States was searching for an honorable exit from Vietnam, a decorated Vietnam War veteran appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Though Israel is not the U.S., and the Gaza Strip is not Vietnam, a similar question nonetheless cries out: “How do you ask a man (or woman) to be the last soldier to die in Gaza to protect Jewish settlements?” This question has now taken on added poignancy as the last remnants of support for the Gaza settlement enterprise are eroding among Israelis, who have come to regard these settlements as a mistake.

Only months ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was still declaring that he viewed the isolated Netzarim settlement near Gaza City as no less important than Tel Aviv, and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was saying nothing to the contrary. However, support for the government’s policies in the territories has steadily eroded in recent months, and about half of Likud voters now say they support Olmert’s call for unilateral steps to disengage from most of the West Bank and Gaza.

The left-center in Israel has long been ready to say farewell to Gaza and it is fair to say that Amram Mitzna’s unequivocal call for a prompt pullout from the Gaza Strip was not the reason for his defeat in the January elections. Now, however, even the wall of right-wing support for maintaining Jewish settlements in Gaza is also starting to collapse. Another stone in this edifice tumbled to the ground last week, when the same prime minister who spoke so passionately about Netzarim frankly admitted in a conversation with diehard supporters of the settlement movement that there is no future for the Jewish settlements in Gaza. “They will not exist” in the end, he told leaders of the National Religious Party.

This does not mean that Sharon has come to the conclusion that Israel should withdraw from the Gaza Strip as soon as possible. But if he is convinced that Israel will eventually leave these settlements – in one year, five years, even 25 years – he must address the Israeli version of the question raised by the spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization over three decades ago. (By the way, the young spokesman, John Kerry, later became a senator himself and is now seeking the presidency.)

Many of those who agree that withdrawal from Gaza would serve Israel’s best interests are reluctant to support this step under the current conditions of relentless mortar attacks and other acts of terrorism directed against settlers and soldiers in the Gaza Strip. This would be perceived as a prize for terror, they say, and would only encourage the use of terror against Israel on other fronts. Indeed, some argue that Israel’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from southern Lebanon made the Hezbollah a model for emulation in the West Bank and Gaza and helped to spark the intifada.

On the other hand, by refusing to withdraw from the Gaza Strip under fire, Israel is allowing the terrorists to dictate its policy, forcing Israel to act against its own best interests. Thus, Israel’s stubborn refusal to leave Gaza only serves to empower the terrorist organizations. From this perspective, by staying entrenched in Gaza, Israel is already giving a substantial prize to terror.

As in the case of Israel’s Lebanon quagmire, there is no wisdom in continuing with a dead-end policy in the Gaza Strip just to deny the enemy a cause for celebration. And as John Kerry suggested in 1971, there is no moral justification for sending soldiers to die for something that is widely recognized to be a mistake.

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