Editorials are posted and archived
on JN Online:
Of Homes And Humanity
riel Sharon has said that when he moves all
7,500 Israeli settlers out of the Gaza Strip,
he will destroy their homes rather than
allow them to fall into the hands of the Palestinians.
There ought be a more constructive approach to the
Of course, the plan may never be carried out.
Sharon has agreed to put the matter to a binding
referendum within his Likud Party, and he could
certainly be voted down on the proposal.
Additionally, he faces the possibility of a criminal
indictment in connection with his son Gilad's busi-
ness dealings with a real estate developer. If an
indictment is issued, it will bring down Sharon's
government and any immediate action to
evacuate the Gaza settlements.
Still, getting out of Gaza makes long-
range sense, with or without offsetting
concessions from the Palestinians. While the securi-
ty fence around Gaza has largely ended the worst of
the terror strikes from that area against Green Line
Israel, a majority of Israelis have concluded that the
cost of defending the settlements in terms of man-
power and money is far higher than the benefits of
any "Greater Israel" aspirations.
The great fear is that withdrawing the settlers and
the military presence could leave the field open to a
surging Hamas movement, the implacable enemy of
the Jewish state, to replace the Palestinian Authority
in Gaza. And you can bet that the leadership of
Hamas and other terror groups will celebrate the
withdrawal as a sign of Israeli weakness in the face
of suicide bombers. The assassination of Hamas
leader Ahmed Yassin will not blunt the Palestinian
cheers nor the Hamas bid for a larger Gaza role.
The question is whether leaving the evacuated
housing intact will help or hurt Israel in the long
run. If the properties can be turned over in some
THE GATES OF
sensible ways, the process could be
a positive one.
Israel would be wise to challenge
the international community, pos-
sibly through the United Nations,
to come up with a fair process that
uses the homes to help with the
real problems of sheltering the
truly needy among the 1.3 million
Palestinians in Gaza. Working with
whatever effective moderates can
be found in or out of the
Palestinian Authority, a global
agency should be able to find a for-
mula for progress that
does not look as if it
were dictated by Israel or
the United States.
One possibility might be to set a
value on the homes and then use it
as a credit against whatever repara-
tions Israel eventually agrees to pay
under a permanent peace agree-
ment that recognizes both the dis-
placement of Palestinians in 1948
and the fact that they are not going
to enjoy any substantial "right of
return." Treating the ending of the
settlements as essentially an eco-
nomic process would lower the
emotional elements of the shift for
both the settlers and the
Palestinians. The plan should also
include a U.N. statement recogniz-
ing the Israeli withdrawal, something that would
reinforce its legitimacy to the Arab states.
The Palestinians who have been so badly misled
by Yasser Arafat and other terrorists deserve some
••• •■ •
sympathy. Obviously, we don't want the settlers'
homes controlled by Hamas. But finding a creative
way to get the properties into the hands of peace-seek-
ing Gaza citizens would send a positive message about
Israel's hopes for the future. 111
Serving The Nation
t was a typically Israeli gathering. Appealingly
noisy, informal and rife with human contact and
good food. Persian-style rice, zucchini with mint,
several kinds of salads, two types of pasta, one quiche
and lots of hummus. The generous buffet was inviting.
So was the mix of people, the animated conversation
and the almost festive atmosphere.
In March, my wife and I joined some 40 other
guests at a party at the home of our good friends and
neighbors Gila and Itzik Aharoni. This was no ordi-
nary celebration. It was in honor of their 18-year-old
son Elroei's entry into the army. Such parties are a
time-honored tradition in Israel.
"In a way, this tradition doesn't make sense," Gila
Robert Sarner is a senior reporter-editor on Israel's only
English-language daily TV news show. Before moving to
Israel in 1990, he was a writer and magazine editor in
Paris and Toronto. His email address is
marrow operation. Thanks to the suitable
told me halfway through the evening. "To have
bone marrow donated by his sister Liat and
a party celebrating that your child is about to
the excellent doctors at Jerusalem's Hadassah
risk his life in uniform seems ridiculous. But
Hospital, Elroei received a new lease on life.
it's so much more than that. We are speaking,
Last week, Elroei began his military service
after all, about Tzahal [Hebrew acronym for
at an Air Force base. This was not his first
Israel Defense Forces (IDF)]. This is our army,
choice. He wanted to be a combat soldier
our sons and daughters, our brothers, our hus-
despite the more grueling training and greater
bands, our friends. Without Tzahal, we have
danger. But the IDF wouldn't allow it due to
no more Israel. I doubt there's another country
his past health problems. It offered him a
in the world whose citizens feel as connected to
deferment, freeing him of all obliga-
their army as in Israel."
tions to serve in the army.
Every mother and father in Israel becomes
Elroei could have carried on with his life.
emotional on seeing his or her child enter the
He could have done what 18-year-olds do in
army. But Gila and Itzik had reason to be more
other countries. He could have enrolled in
moved than most parents. For a long time,
university or gotten a job. Instead, he volunteered for
they thought they might never see this day.
non-combat military service, with encouragement
When Elroei was 5, he was diagnosed with a severe
case of leukemia. For a while, his future was touch and
"It was not an easy decision," says Elroei. "After all,
go. He underwent a year of chemotherapy but it did
little good. Doctors said his only hope was a bone
SARNER on page 33