2004-05-06

Disengagement

Evoking Ellen DeGeneres, Clifford D. May insists that Ariel Sharon does, after all, have a strategy. Simply put, he is determined to pull out of Gaza despite the best efforts of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Or say it like this: he will punish the terrorists by ending the Israeli occupation, leaving Arafat with “such mundane tasks as attracting foreign investment, building new housing and filling pot holes in downtown Ramallah.”

What is Sharon’s strategy? “... not coexistence but only disengagement. His goal is to divorce Israelis from Palestinians.”

The plan is disengagement. It is withdrawal into defensible borders. It is refusing to play the enemy’s game. In short, it is all about setting boundaries – which is why May’s “divorce” metaphor is so apt. Israel and Palestine are like an unhappy couple, living together out of habit, unable to stand each other, making one another’s lives miserable, and yet unable to let go. It is the very study of a dysfunctional and co-dependent relationship.

The literal boundary of the fence is necessary to this disengagement process; and not surprisingly, William Safire stresses the importance of Israel’s security barrier in persuading the Israeli right that disengagement is in Israel’s own best interests. This, in his analysis, is why Sharon will press forward at full speed with the fence.

And will everyone be perfectly satisfied with the placement of the security barrier (let alone its existence)? Categorically, no. I’d venture to say that not one person will be completely happy with the placement of the fence. But that’s the point: it’s a place to begin negotiating. The Head Heeb makes an indespensible observation about justice and peace. Soundly rejecting the cliché of “no peace without justice”, he contends that “In fact, all peace requires some sacrifice of justice . ... A compromise may be workable, and even fair, but it will rarely be seen as just by any of the compromising parties, because each will be required to give up something to which it feels it is entitled.”

Freedom activists understand that the democratic process – which is, ultimately, none other than the process of life itself – is not about perfection, but about growth. By withdrawing into secure boundaries, Israel will be better able to nurture its own needs while Palestine finds its way forward.