Disengagement: Reflections at the crossroads

Categories: Israel
By Avi Melamed

These are dramatic traumatic days we are going through. Yet, it is still important to maintain a broad perspective. Though we, the Jewish People, are at a crossroads in history there are, perhaps, some immediate lessons that we can learn.

The disengagement is a milestone in the process of redefining the Israeli consensus (and red lines). In this context, the disengagement is the climax of an underlying process that has been taking place in Israeli society for the last 15 years. The very essence of this process is the growing understanding among majority of Israelis that the occupation cannot continue both from a moral and practical point of view. In this context we are simply learning one of history?s oldest rules: you cannot rule another nation forever.

The first lesson that we can learn from the disengagement process is that we desire to be a true democracy?a confirmation of Israel?s founding philosophy. In fact, given Israel?s young age and our ?lunatic reality? I think that Israeli democracy deserves an “A+”. This is not to say that haven?t been some disturbing trends.

The second lesson is in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular, and the region, in general. The disengagement process highlighted Israel?s red lines. I think that it is reasonable to assume that there will not be disengagement in the West Bank. This is not to say that smaller, settlement outposts won?t be evacuated but that the major settlements will remain under Israel?s sovereignty.

This brings me to the Palestinians. Disengagement should be no less a milestone for the Palestinians than it is for Israel. Disengagement accelerates the inevitable process of Palestinian statehood through negotiations, which will require painful concessions from the Palestinians (just as the disengagement is painful to Israel). Disengagement will hopefully trump the calls for the use of violence to achieve Palestinian objectives.

Palestinians must soon choose between negotiations and violence, pragmatism or extremism. The outcome of this decision will either lead either to a hopeful future or continued bloody conflict with possible regional aftershocks.

The disengagement is a traumatic milestone. Undoubtedly, it is traumatic for the settlers specifically and the religious Zionist movement generally. But disengagement need not be in vain. I believe that it should be remembered as a positive milestone in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. By portraying the new Israeli consensus and redlines and, above all, by reconfirming democracy as a pillar of the State disengagement can be a source for growth and strength.

About Avi Melamed

Avi Melamed was born in 1960 to an old Jerusalemite Sefardi family. Avi is a sought-after lecturer in Israel and abroad, specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, democracy, education, the West and Islam. For thirteen years Avi, worked for the Government of Israel in civilian affairs and counter-terrorism. By the mid 1990's Avi was a Senior Advisor on Arab Affairs for the Mayor of Jerusalem. Based on this experience, Avi co-authored "Separate and Unequal-The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem" (Harvard University Press, 1999). Avi has delivered lectures to the UJC, the World Bank, The Israeli Foreign Office, The Peres Institute for Peace, AJC, and The Jerusalem Foundation. He is also the Founder of The Teachers for a New Leadership movement (TNL) and a member of the Board of The Israeli Forum and a member of the Young Israeli Leadership Forum (YLF). Currently, Avi works as an Educator and Lecturer in the Maayan-Shachar educational campus.
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