On the evening of Ariel Sharon’s funeral, the Israeli nightly news broadcast opened by reporting that IAF jets bombed two targets of terrorist infrastructure in Gaza in retaliation for rockets that were fired into Israel.
I could not help but think how ironic it was that the funeral of the person responsible for Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza was upstaged by the ongoing conflict emanating from that same conflict almost a decade later.
Despite this irony and the painful conclusion that the Disengagement has not brought quiet to the border with Gaza, Ariel Sharon’s death shadowed by the continued rocket fire from Gaza does afford us the opportunity to pause and think about the current situation.
Sharon’s Disengagement Plan was enacted in August 2005. Afterwards, Hamas was elected as the reigning party in the Palestinian government in Gaza. The aftermath was several years of conflict within Gaza between Fatah and Hamas as well as the continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. This resulted in several military operations.
Operation Summer Rains was prompted in 2006 partially by the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This was followed by Operation Autumn Clouds following numerous rockets being fired into Israel. This operation did not solve the problem and in 2008 Operation Cast Lead was launched. With the recent news reports, it is obvious that the rockets continue.
There have been over 4,800 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza since 2001. Over 4,000 since the Disengagement from Gaza.
What a missed opportunity.
How can it be, I wonder, that we withdrew from Gaza, uprooted families, businesses, farms and homes with nothing in exchange. Surely, I thought at the time, this would be the precursor to the establishment of an international border: We withdrew; we drew a line; if you cross that line, you violate our border. It is an act of war.
Over 4,000 rockets later, it continues.
Can you imagine what it is like to live with that threat over you every day?
It seems too late to do something about this because we have gotten into a routine. We have accepted the status quo and are afraid of the risks of change.
Just as Ariel Sharon laid in a comma and nothing in his situation changed for years, so it seems that Israeli leadership is comatose and immune to the reality in which residents of southern Israel live. Like anyone who is abused, they have developed coping mechanisms and learned to live with this ongoing psychological trauma.
In Israel, we have gotten into a routine and while from the outside it may seem like an insane situation, it would require effort to change it. Even if there is potential for improvement, change requires risk and often we convince ourselves that what we have is “good enough.” There are times when each of us settles for mediocrity instead of striving for excellence because we think that what we have is safe. Even when things are not good, even when we are not safe, we talk ourselves into the rationalization “better the devil we know.”
So the rockets continue to come into Israel. Since there have been so few physical casualties, we tolerate it. Until we don’t. Then, an operation is launched, injuries are suffered, infrastructure destroyed, and the cycle begins again.
As with Sabra and Shatila, with the Disengagement from Gaza, Sharon facilitated something over which he had no control and which caused the suffering of millions of people for decades to come.
Perhaps Sharon’s death will allow us to wake up and realize that this situation is not acceptable. Sharon did not succeed neither in war nor in peace. We are still paying the price for his hubris and audacity. I do not want to continue suffering in the aftermath of his legacy.
Israel and the region requires strong leaders who are willing to take risks for the betterment of their constituency and then build a better future. While Sharon took bold actions, he did not follow-through and therein lies the lesson to be learned.
Not only must we take action to change our reality, but that action should be part of a strategic plan to build something new, and not just an escape to destroy an intolerable past. Change may be initiated as a reaction, but we will only be successful reaching our goal if we are proactive in building our future towards a new reality.