Ten Years Later

Here in Israel, confrontations between the authorities and settlers of the land of Israel have again heated up this week, with scenes  of destroyed Jewish homes conjuring up painful images from the past. Ten years after the expulsion of thousands of Jews from Gaza and the northern Shomron, the destruction of their homes and the resultant vulnerability of Jews throughout most of Israel, it is hard for any reasonable person to claim that the Expulsion was not a colossal mistake, a national humiliation, and an historic blunder that political scientists will ponder for generations. The entire rationale for the Expulsion collapsed within months of its execution, and with the perspective of a decade, it is clear that none of the justifications for expelling Jews from their homes and renouncing Jewish sovereignty over part of the land of Israel were valid. None of the purported goals were achieved.

The security situation has obviously deteriorated. More Israelis have been killed in Gaza in the last ten years – without any Jews even living there – than were killed in the ten years preceding the Expulsion. Surrender of that land to a terror entity resulted – as predicted – in Gaza becoming a base for terror operations against Israel, with thousands of rockets falling on surrounding communities (and some landing as far as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport). Despite the claims made prior to the Expulsion, Israel has not been able to easily return to halt the rocket terror, to pre-empt any attacks, and to thwart terrorist acts. Israel struggles even to keep out deadlier rockets, missiles and weaponry from Gaza.

Israel has had to fight three major battles, all costlier in the number of casualties because of the difficulty of re-entry. Rather than launch its operations as it did before 2005 from the settlements and bases within Gaza, Israel has several times risked its soldiers’ lives by even venturing 100 meters into Gaza. The entire border seems to be one minefield, with booby-trapped homes, roads and buildings – not to mention the tunnels that Hamas has dug into Israel for the purpose of perpetrating terror in the future with many of those tunnels still undiscovered.

Rather than make the IDF’s job easier by shortening its defensive lines, it has complicated the task of defending Israel’s borders against the terrorists. The proof rests in the hundreds of casualties sustained to date defending southern Israel against the Gazan marauders. Just last week, General Yair Naveh (who participated in the Expulsion) opined that PM Ariel Sharon did not consult the IDF General Staff, which, he says, was largely opposed to the unilateral evacuation of Gaza. Of course, now he says he too was opposed to the Expulsion (that he oversaw) but did not wish to resign over it. He should spare us his commentary, and his revisionism. The Expulsion was a military nightmare.

Similarly, it was claimed that withdrawal from Gaza would be welcomed by the world, who would be so enamored with Israel’s magnanimity and yearning for peace that it would usher in an era of mutual respect and brotherhood. Israel would join the family of nations and be respected and esteemed for its sacrifices for peace.

That hasn’t quite worked out the way it was planned, either. The world community did celebrate Israel’s withdrawal (although, truth be told, the Bush Administration was not thrilled with it, as many foresaw a takeover of Gaza by Hamas and the creation of a new base of terror there; indeed, even ISIS has set up a regional headquarters in Gaza). But the world’s celebration of Israel’s self-inflicted wound was short-lived. Each subsequent incursion into Gaza has provoked the enmity and wrath of the putative celebrants, with persistent accusations of war crimes against any Israeli action in Gaza. The BDS movement was jump-started after the Expulsion, as were the threats of prosecution against Israel’s fighters and the continued efforts of the Palestine Authority to declare statehood through the United Nations. Israel is now perceived as less entitled to any of its land rather than more entitled by virtue of its “flexibility.” Israel is even still widely perceived as an “occupier” of Gaza! No nation has cut Israel any slack for all its sacrifices. The Expulsion was a diplomatic disaster. Those who argue that, well, Israel had to try something just to give its people and others hope are likely the same people who today support the Bad Deal with Iran, because, well, you sometimes just have to try something to give people hope.

Those who rejoiced in no longer having to patrol Gaza must find little comfort in their bomb shelters in Tel Aviv, if they make the association at all. But even that little comfort must dissipate when they reflect that as they attempt to shield themselves from Hamas missiles coming from Gaza, the world still considers Israel the aggressor! Indeed, as too many Israelis perceived Gush Katif as not really the land of Israel and as the subject of an illegal occupation, too many people across the world today have that same attitude…towards Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel, all, to them, illegally occupied land that rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. So rather than buttress Israel’s case for its sovereignty over the land of Israel, the Expulsion from Gaza undermined it, and it will take many more years to recover from that diplomatic and hashkafic debacle.

And the Expulsion was a personal disaster for everyone involved. Obviously the expellees themselves – and many others – never thought it would happen and so were ill-prepared when it did. Many never recovered and of those who did, credit goes less to the Israeli government than to the compassionate hearts of their fellow Jews who held their hands and saw to it – as best possible – that they should be able to get back on their feet.

But it is astonishing – and eerie, controversial and unsettling –to examine the fate of the individuals responsible for the Expulsion, especially the political and military leaders who perpetrated. The issue itself has engendered much discussion in Israel, although many have been aware of it for years. The strangest things have happened to those leaders, as will be detailed below.

A recent edition of the Israeli weekly Besheva discussed this state of affairs and engenders these questions: Do we believe that G-d punishes wrongdoers before our eyes to clarify for all what is right and wrong? Can we deduce from the fates of these leaders that Heaven did not support their activities? Is there Justice and is there a Judge?

Rav Dov Lior, recently retired Rav of the Holy City of Hevron, stated unequivocally that we are both allowed and mandated to draw conclusions. He cites the Rambam (Hilchot Taanit 1:3) that when troubles befall any person, he has to first examine his deeds and not attribute his travails to coincidence or randomness. “Whoever harms the settlement of Jews in the land of Israel is punished in this world,” said Rav Lior, “just like the biblical spies were.”  Strong words, for sure.

Rav David Stav, head of Tzohar, perceives this matter differently. Discerning G-d’s calculations might be true but it is also very seductive and misleading. The price to be paid for this approach is that a lack of punishment of one whom we presume to be wicked should therefore be perceived as a vindication or justification for his actions. Someone who does something and is not punished for it could then argue that what he did was right. “Shall we then intrude into G-d’s calculations?”

Which approach is correct? Both? Neither? Is the subject matter fraught with arrogance and insensitivity but also possibly with heresy and sacrilege?

Consider the fates of just some of the perpetrators of the Expulsion from Gaza, as noted in Besheva:

Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister who concocted this scheme, was felled by a stroke less than six months after the Expulsion. He never recovered, and spent the last eight years of his life in “exile,” literally suspended between heaven and earth, between the living and the dead.

Moshe Katzav, the President of Israel at the time, was soon thereafter convicted of rape and still sits in prison.

Then Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left office in disgrace after his failed leadership during the Second Lebanon War, and now stands convicted of multiple counts of bribery and fraud. He awaits his own prison term.

Omri Sharon, Sharon’s son who formulated the plan together with his father, went to prison for bribery.

Omri Bar Lev, the police commander who led the evacuation? His own house collapsed. Literally. Just collapsed.

Nisso Shacham, a police commander who was caught on camera acting in a vulgar and brutal manner as he expelled Jews from their home, rose to become the commander of the Jerusalem District and then was relieved of his post while facing accusations of multiple rapes and sexual abuse.

Moshe Karadi, Inspector-General of the Police, was dismissed for negligence and incompetence involving the investigation of an unrelated police scandal.

There are even others who participated in the dismemberment of Jews from their homes and who have suffered unusual fates. Conversely, Moshe Yaalon, who opposed the Expulsion as Chief of Staff and was not re-appointed by Sharon, today serves as Minister of Defense. One other prominent Likudnik who resigned from the Sharon government because of his (late, but nonetheless overt) opposition to the Expulsion is Binyamin Netanyahu, now in the seventh year of his second tenure as Prime Minister.

Undoubtedly, there are others who participated in the Expulsion who have not been “punished;” perhaps they have other good deeds to their credit.

How should we approach such a delicate subject? I tend to fall on Rav Stav’s side of the fence here and do not presume to understand how G-d runs His world and executes His justice, and certainly not to see cause and effect in the lives of individuals. It is dangerous, and does engender a slippery slope. It is not too distant from these speculations to concluding that someone suffered a tragedy because a Mezuzah was found to be invalid or some such other facile answer. On the other hand, how can we completely discount G-d’s hand in human affairs? That too would be heretical.

It’s a paradox. To ignore or dismiss these strange happenings is close to denying Providence; to render definitive conclusions is haughty and presumes to know G-d’s will. For sure, one who experiences suffering should first examine his own deeds (Masechet Berachot 5a), which is not the same as examining someone else’s deeds as the cause of their suffering.

In any event, it should give us pause to reflect, to think and to wonder – and to pray that the Jewish people never have to witness the forced expulsion of Jews from our ancestral homeland and the surrender of Jewish sovereignty to our enemies. The scenes this week from Bet El are discouraging. Nevertheless, may we all learn from our mistakes and together strengthen the people of Israel in the struggles ahead against real enemies.

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32 responses to “Ten Years Later

  1. “More Israelis have been killed in Gaza in the last ten years – without any Jews even living there – than were killed in the ten years preceding the Expulsion.”

    True, but not meaningful.

    In the 10 years that ended with the expulsion from Gaza and the security fence around Judea and Samaria, we had the Second Intifada. Far far more Israelis were killed across Israel than the 10 years since. Look at life outside Gaza — living in fear of air raid sirens is a lot milder than living with frequent bus and suicide bombings.

    Ariel Sharon separated the two sides, which reduced the possibility of guerrilla warfare and replaced it with a more classical war — two sides fighting across a border. The kind of war the IDF has a better chance succeeding at. This might even have been Sharon’s intent — not trying to get an impossible piece, but redefining the terms of the war in our favor; unfortunately, we’ll never know.

    But from sheer statistics, Israel is much safer now than back when there were no borders between the weapons and us for Israel to guard. Even including the Israelis who have to find themselves on the weapons’ side of the border.

  2. “True, but not meaningful.”

    According to you, but not according to the dead. It’s not safer if the entire country is in fear of an attack.
    – RSP

    • Have you spoken to the dead to know that? Or is it just that you assume that once someone dies, they immediately agree with your preferred political positions?

      • And what is your political position – Israel should keep ceding land to its enemies till there’s nothing left? The “piece process” – piece by piece.

    • It’s not a meaningful statistic. We aren’t trying to minimize the number of Israelis killed in the Gaza strip. We are trying to minimize the number of Israelis killed anywhere.

      And, as I continued, Sharon’s dual steps of the Security Barrier and withdrawal from Gaza ended an Intifada that cost far more lives per year than we saw in the years before the withdrawal. He changed a guerrilla war into an actual war, and thus improved the army’s ability to defend civilians.

      • but he could have put up the security wall and kept The Settlements in Gaza. Giving up The settlements in Gaza was a terrible move

      • Do you think all the terrorists were coming in from Yehudah veShomeron? Why do you think it was Gaza that voted for Hamas? We apparently need a border around each to stop the weekly terror.

  3. Outstanding Post/article!

  4. Your latest rant once again reminds me of an expression the late President Ronald Reagan frequently used, i.e., “there you go again.” You insist on using the loaded term “expulsion” when referring to the Gush Katif matter. Not one Jew was expelled from Israel. If any of them left Israel it was of their own free will. Yes, they were evacuated but not expelled. A couple of years ago you even outrageously suggested that we mourn the incident on the next Tisha B’Av as being equivalent to the worst events associated with that annual commemoration. Before I proceed, I’d like to give my own opinion of the issue at hand. Since Israel agreed to UN resolutions where she would withdraw from territories, does anyone think in their wildest dreams that communities could be established in the middle of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and that would not be part of an ultimate withdrawal. Establishing communities contiguous to the part of Israel within the so-called green line was not only desirable but absolutely essential. Accordingly, Gush Katif, a community of approximately 10,000 residents, required a like number of soldiers to protect it. This created a hardship for the soldiers and their families. Yet, people like you who constantly vilify us here in Israel, notably have not started a campaign to bring let’s say 10,000 families on aliyah with an average of at least one member per family who could serve in this capacity. Withdrawing the military was quite another matter and foolish and dangerous IMO. Nevertheless, it is quite disturbing to hear people like you continually vilify our leaders who you yourselves refuse to become part of the equation. Yes, I understand the consequences of the military withdrawal, which I too opposed, but despite the increase in terror attacks in Gaza and near the withdrawal line there may have been a commensurate or even larger decrease in terror elsewhere in Israel. I have not seen a study on this subject but would not be surprised if it were true. Further, you did not say a single word critical of the real perpetrators of this tragedy, i.e., the terrorists. How about a little recognition of this fact. Again, with all your repeated rants, I have yet to see you come here yourself to live, bring a large contingent with you, and contribute meaningfully.

    Usually, you cherry pick and twist facts to make your point. In this rant, however, you resorted to outright lying. You stated that selected president bush, who served with president cheney, was not thrilled with the withdrawal. The truth, however, is that Bush was enthusiastically for it and, if memory serves me correctly, even issued his famous letter in response which stated that in any agreement the borders would not be the 1949 armistice lines because there were “facts on the ground,” meaning Jewish communities had been established and would continue to remain a part of Israel. I figure you must have supported that position but what about the facts on the ground of hundreds of thousands of Arabs already living in certain areas. I believe that Ariel Sharon’s decision was based in part on the position of the U.S. President. How could he have known that the next President would simply rescind that position.

    You stated that “those who rejoiced in no longer having to patrol Gaza must find little comfort in their bomb shelters in Tel Aviv, if they make the association at all.” Do you live in Tel Aviv or close to it. Let me look at my map and find Teaneck. No, it’s not near Tel Aviv or anywhere in Israel. OK, here it is, 6,000 miles away. Far enough for you to kvetch about us, not participate and not even be able to vote. I believe had the military remained with the exception of the soldiers guarding former communities which never should have been established in the first place, it would have been sufficient for security purposes.

    Next, you proceeded to ream what you call the leaders of the evacuation from PM Ariel Sharon on down, including some who had nothing to do with it at all. You strongly suggested that the calamities that befell them were payback from G-d for their errors. Ariel Sharon undoubtedly made a colossal blunder; however, you fail to recognize all the great things he did for Israel, compared to what you have done, i.e., nothing. We don’t know exactly why but perhaps he believed that the U.S. President would support him, the resources of the military could be used more effectively, and overall the security situation would be improved. One could make the case that without him and others like him we wouldn’t even have a state. But you think you know better. What difference does it make to you while you remain in cushy Teaneck. If Ariel Sharon and others are being punished, by extension does that mean the tragedy that befell the 3 young yeshiva students last year was due to their somehow doing something to cause having their lives tragically snuffed out even before they reached their primes?

    In a previous rant, you supported to position of collective punishment, i.e., whenever a terror incident occurs all Arabs should be punished. Is this the position you subscribed to when you practiced as a lawyer? We expect venom like this from many lawyers but even the most arrogant, obnoxious lawyers would be horrified by your statements. I understand you issued one of your many “clarifications” with regard to this particular rant. I understand that many of your rants have caused discomfort among many of your congregants and there may yet be a real expulsion, i.e., expelling you from your position.

    Instead of directing your vilification against us Israelis who actually live here and contribute to our society, you could be helping us more by urging the support of the U.S. president and your elected representatives. How about some rallies demanding support for Israel. Better yet, put your money where your mouth is and make aliyah along with many of your supporters. Then, you would have credibility.

    • ” Not one Jew was expelled from Israel. If any of them left Israel it was of their own free will. Yes, they were evacuated but not expelled”

      Seriously?

    • I almost stopped reading your comment after your arrogant and most disrespectful use of the word “rant” concerning Rabbi Pruzansky. I actually did stop reading if after you said “they were evacuated, not expelled.” I can tolerate a little chutzpah, but I cant tolerate stupidity.

      • DF: Then I guess you can’t tolerate yourself. The rabbi continually is disrespectful not only to us who actually live in Israel but others as well, e.g., calling the Jewish Week the equivalent of Der Sturmer. I understand a large percentage of his congregation is fed up with him and if it weren’t for the reluctance to fire a long-term rabbi, he would be expelled, and rightfully so.

      • It is truly amazing that you object so vociferously to my use of the word “rant” and my objection to the use of the word “expulsion” and apparently completely exonerate the rabbi’s incendiary vitriol. Some examples: suggesting that Ariel Sharon’s illness and passing were punishment from G-d and the same for virtually everyone else who served in any capacity at the time and had tragedies in their lives; plus, he said there are others who have not yet been “punished” but certainly will be; comparing the Jewish Week to Der Strumer, comparing the Israeli government which ordered the Gush Katif disengagement to the worst despots in Jewish history, suggesting that when an Arab commits a terror act there should be collective punishment of his/her entire community, virtually accusing us who actually live in Israel as being idiots; etc. etc. etc. You have a really jaded sense of morality.

  5. Yes, seriously. BTW, where do you live, Andy?

    • So are you saying that the Jews of Gush Katif either didn’t leave or left of their own free will? I live in Bergen County NJ, how is that relevant?

      • Andy, why don’t you read what I wrote, i.e., they were not forced to leave Israel, which would be an expulsion. Where you live is very relevant. We who actually live here in Israel are perfectly capable of making our own decisions without our beloved brethren who choose to live in the galut vilifying our every move. I am confident that you and I are on the same wavelength on a lot of issues. When I lived in the galut, I didn’t think it was my right to reprimand Israelis for decisions that affected their very lives. In addition. to which galut opinions should we listen. Several months ago some lawyer from Chicago who belongs to J Street was quoted in an article that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with minor swaps, period. Where does he come off to tell us what to do. Andy, come on over and be part of the process. I am not happy with everything that goes on here but it is my country. I left the U.S. not for negative reasons, as I loved it there, but because I belong here in Israel. Your rabbi is so super critical of us Israelis for so many things that I hope our enemies don’t get a hold of some of his rantings because they can then point to a prominent rabbi from the U.S. who seems to hate Israel. Some of his positions are very troubling.

    • Just curious Avi, how do you feel about the PM coming to American and intervening in our political process?

      http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/08/04/israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-makes-direct-appeal-to-american-jews-over-iran-deal

      • Andy, it sounds like you are a supporter of both the rabbi and Obama, an odd combination. Although it is very popular in many places to say Bibi is intervening in the American political process, he is not doing so. He is protecting israel’s interests from an existential threat. It is an international issue which Obama has worked very hard to exclude israel and any other of the most interested parties, i.e., Iran’s nearest neighbors except for their own clients. It is Bibi’s responsibility to protect his nation. He was invited to both the UN and the US Congress to discuss the issue. He did not invite himself. While he has been accused of aiding the Romney campaign in 2012 there is no evidence but certainly it was clear that Obama interfered in the Israeli election. If let’s say an outsider weighed in on the undocumented alien matter in the U.S. I believe that would constitute interference.

    • Ha, yeah I mean I don’t know if I’d call myself a supporter of either The Rabbi or Obama. I respect Rabbi Pruzansky a great deal and agree with much of what he says. I do not agree with his views on Domestic policy or Obama. That is a fair point you raised about protecting Israel/international issue. But I think when you address congress without giving the President a heads up, then proceed to bash his foreign policy you are interjecting yourself into American Politics. When you make an appeal to American Jews to support/oppose a deal being voted on by The Us government you are interjecting yourself. I respect your opinion abt Jews in exile not telling Israelis what to do but I think it’s more complicated. Also, the 3 Billion plus in foreign aid gives Americans at least the right to express an opinion

      • You raise a lot of good points. Although I disagree with your analysis of Bibi’s alleged interference, I think you’d agree that Obama has gone to the extreme in his vilification of Israel in general and Bibi in particular. This is diametrically opposed to the opinions of the vast majority of Congress and indeed the American people. He has not only alienated Israel partially but also other allies, particularly in the Middle East. While it is quite unlikely that Israel would gravitate to the Russians, its neighbors would have no problem doing so if they felt it was in their best interests. Imagine that happening and what a mess it would be, even worse than it is now. As far as giving the president a heads up on his address to Congress, that was the Republicans’ doing, probably because they figured Obama would try to squash it. Why is he so afraid of other opinions. Remember, Obama himself arrogantly refused to address the Israeli Knesset. I have not liked most presidents too much in my lifetime but the present one has done so many things against America’s best interests. Instead of the transparency he promised, we have more secrets withheld from us and an atmosphere that our privacy is being trampled. BTW, I have been a registered Democrat since I first registered. The only times I voted Republican for president was in the last 2 elections (I once voted for an independent). My voting record has been split between the 2 major parties so I don’t form opinions in a knee jerk reaction.

      • Who was the independent you voted for, Rosa perot?

      • I do not agree with the statements you made about Obama. We are kind of getting into a different topic now

  6. I was under the impression that The Jews of Gush Katif were forced out by the Israeli government ( much like the Jews of Yamit) If you have evidence otherwise please enlighten me. That is true that you are capable of making your own choices without people in Galut, but I’m still not sure how that’s relevant. When did I say otherwise? Expressing an opinion and telling you what to do are different things.

    • Are you two REALLY arguing over whether it’s fair to use the word “expulsion” when someone is kicked out of part of their country rather than all of it?

      And then compounding that with an argument as to whether someone from chu”l has a right to voice an opinion on something that boils down to what term should be used???

      • Did you actually read the rabbi’s post? There is quite a difference between your discussion of semantics and the way he portrayed our leaders here in Israel. He has relentlessly vilified us for virtually everything that goes on here and in this post even suggests that PM Sharon and others, some of whom had nothing to do with the decision, are being punished by G-d for their sins. He has issued “clarifications” for his venom on numerous occasions. If he had discussed the Gush Katif incident without all this additional rhetoric I could live with a term I don’t think is appropriate. The way he vilifies us, however, is not acceptable. Plus, he should be criticizing the real perpetrators of the situation.

      • I am not talking about the original post. I am pointing out what the exchange between you (Avi) and Andy appears to be about.

  7. maybe when the Jews learn that it is not important as to what the rest of the world thinks or care ( which is nor ever has been our well being) but that of Hashem and what he wants us to do. Do we rely on Miracles, yes otherwise we would not be here today! We need to rely on what Hashem wants us to do rather than others want us to do. If we listened 3500 years ago we wouldn’t have these problems today!