The Settlers' Crisis, and Israel's
Israel is headed this summer for what may be the most severe political crisis of its history. On one side, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is resolved to go ahead with the military evacuation from the Gaza Strip of an estimated 8,000 Jewish settlers, most of them from Israel’s half-million-strong modern Orthodox or “national-religious” community. The evacuation is part of Sharon’s “disengagement” plan, itself meant to begin a unilateral drawing of Israel’s borders in the absence of a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
On the other side, a powerful settlement movement and its supporters accuse this plan, despite the parliamentary majority it enjoys, of lacking demo-cratic legitimacy. There have been dark hints of violent resistance on the part of settlers, as well as of massive insubordination in the army units assigned to carry out their removal—or, worse yet, of doomsday developments like another Rabin-style assassination, a blowing-up of Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or even outright civil war. In the words of Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, one of the most moderate of the settler leaders, it is as if two trains were speeding toward each other on the same tracks with no signal light to stop either of them.
About the Author
Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.