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To receive a building permit for a new development in ant American city, one must file an environmental impact report - how will this new housing development affect the quality of air and water, the local flora and fauna, the noise level, the traffic, the view from other dwellings, the load on utilities, schools and neighborhood services, etc., etc. This article similarly analyzes the impact the Sharon Plan is likely to have on different relevant dimensions, in the short and long run. Was such an analysis done before the implantation of Sharon's plan, it could never have gotten a go ahead. It is important to learn from this analysis now, in order to prevent the same or similar mistakes in the future. Contractors know that a viable development needs more than a bulldozer.
It has been repeatedly stated by numerous political analysts that Sharon's unconditional retreat from the Gaza Strip is a colossal political blunder for a number of reasons:
In brief, Sharon's move must be seen as abandonment of the principle of reciprocity that has coupled Israeli territorial concessions with appropriate Arab political compromises, and that Arab aggression would entail appropriate penalties. Israel's survival has depended on this principle. Its current violation puts Israel in mortal danger.
Sharon's retreat from the Gaza Strip is also an amazingly military blunder:
We are being told that if Arab aggression from the Gaza Strip would persist or possibly expand to Samaria, Israel will have little choice but reoccupy most, if not all, the Arab "liberated" territories (probably at the cost of more IDF casualties than in the limited 2002 offensive, because by then the Arabs will be much better equipped and trained). If this is being seriously contemplated, why should the IDF have to abandon any territory before there are no more security threats?
The strength of a nation is not measured by its armed forces but by its economic productivity. Sharon has not only demoralized the IDF but has undermined Israel's economy for years to come.
The foreseeable economic damage of Sharon's "disengagement" is enormous. The destruction of a highly productive part of Israeli economy (export of hundreds of million of dollars worth of agricultural products) coupled with the welfare costs of these new self-made refugees, is just a minor part of the equation. This added economic burden may be bearable.
However, enhanced Arab terrorism, which has started even before the retreat was completed, and the persistent projections in editorials all over the world that the Israeli unconditional retreat might indicate the eventual demise of the State of Israel, will discourage future investments in the Jewish state. What investors will put money in a terror-ridden country, the very future of which is in doubt? What investors will build industrial plants in a territory that might be arbitrarily given up for destruction, as was the industrial park in Gush Katif?
In his inexplicable, unconditional retreat, Sharon has demonstrated that Israeli government's policies are unreliable, as are its obligations and guarantees. Nothing can be more detrimental to economic development. The recent significant declines in Israel's stock exchange are a measure of declining investors' confidence in Israel's economic future following recent events.
Now Israel is asking the US to pay for the retreat (after all, it has pleased the Arabophils at the State Department). Israel is asking again for loan guarantees. However, with the self-inflicted poor prospects for Israel's economy, such a loan will entail higher interests, which may become another impediment to economic growth. Israel also expects the American Jewish community to contribute to the resettlement of those self-inflicted, home-grown refugees. Sharon reminds one of the fellow who murdered his parents and then asks for charity because he has been orphaned.
On the other hand, had Sharon extracted significant Arab concessions in return for Israel's retreat from Gaza, which would have been an indication for a possible final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel's economy would have boomed. In such a case, a national referendum would have endorsed the withdrawal even if it would have involved resettling of residents from some dismantled Jewish communities; those people would have then cooperated for the overall benefit of their nation. This is the gist of Sharon's folly.
The retreat will also have demographic consequences. One of the excuses for the retreat from Gaza has been the notorious "demographic bomb," i.e., the declining ratio between Jewish and Arab voters in Israel. Sharon's mistreatment of the idealistic pioneers in Gush Katif and the other evicted Jewish communities, combined with the expected deterioration of Israeli economy, continued terrorism, and the dire projections for Israel's future, will encourage mass emigration of talented Israelis who might find jobs elsewhere; this will result in a further decline in Israel's high-tech dependent economy. At the same time, there will be a very significant decrease in the number of religious Jewish immigrants, many of whom used to settle in the "disputed territories" for ideological reasons. In other words, Sharon's policies are likely to make the "demographic bomb" a reality, rather than helping to avoid it.
Yet another consequence of giving up the right of Jews to live anywhere they wish in their ancient homeland, and the forceful uprooting of religious Jews who believed until the last moment that miraculously Sharon's cruel edict will be abolished by an act of God, combined with the possible abandonment of Jewish sacred places in Judea and Samaria in the foreseeable future, will undoubtedly have long-term theological ramifications both in Judaism and Christianity. Like after the Holocaust, some Jews may lose faith in God while others will rationalize this disaster as God's punishment for lack of sufficient faith or His retribution for some transgressions.
However, there might be a far more profound effects on Christian theology. The major resettlement of Jews in Israel in the 19th Century was associated with British Christian Zionism. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 gave a boost to American Christian Zionists. It has been interpreted by them as the fulfillment of God's promise to the Jewish people to bring them back from exile to their homeland. Hundreds of millions of dollars were contributed by religious Christians, Christian Zionists, to assist Jews all over the world to immigrate to Israel. The same Christians have been maintaining political support for the Jewish state and affecting US policies to a great extent. I do know first hand that these Christians were vehemently opposed to Sharon's plan for ideological reasons.
Now, Sharon's expulsion of Jews by Jewish troops must have created a serious theological dilemma for Zionist Christians. Does Israel's political leadership stop supporting the settling of Jews from the Diaspora all over the Holy Land, as God has promised? Does not Israeli political leadership, which seems to persecute Jews, evicting them from their homes against their will, remind one of those wicked Jewish Priests who supposedly persecuted Jesus (the classical excuse for hatred of Jews by Christians)?
Furthermore, Christians may ask: Has God forsaken the Jews? Those evicted Jews, like the Zionist Christians, have been praying for weeks for Sharon's edict of eviction to be revoked, and it did not happen. God did not answer all those prayers. If so, Christian may conclude that the Replacement Doctrine, which has become less popular in the last 100 years, is theologically correct, and Jews are destined to be exiled for ever. This may then also rekindle dormant Jew-hatred even in the US. All this, which might seem esoteric and irrelevant to secular Israeli politicians, might result in diminished political support for Israel by the Christian religious Right in America; and this is support that Israel badly needs, especially at this point in time.
The productivity of any society depends on its cohesiveness. That cohesiveness depends on commonality of ethical values and morality. At the socio-psychological level, the breakup of cohesive Jewish communities that grew organically for decades, is another misfortune associated with Sharon's self-inflicted exile. The expulsion of Jews by Jews for purely political reasons was unethical, and the pitting of secular against religious Jews was certainly immoral. The cohesiveness of Israel's society is today in shambles, and so is also the level of idealism in large segments of Israeli society. The cohesiveness of this society that was forged by facing external enemies, has been broken up by Sharon's actions. The demise of secular nationalistic Zionism, which has been touted by proponents of expulsion, is another manifestation of social decadence. The severe damage in economic productivity and in the morale of the IDF is going to be significant, endangering Israel's capacity to withstand serious extramural challenges.
One worries that the eviction of Jews from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria might be followed by of a far more disastrous calamity - the eviction of additional 80 to 250 thousand Jews from Judea and Samaria, as well as the division of Jerusalem. These possibilities have been officially declared by Ehud Olmert, Sharon's deputy and architect of the Gaza retreat, in concert with Condoleezza Rice's recent statements and Abu Mazen's diatribe. A thorough multidimensional impact analysis, as well as cost/benefit analysis of possible alternatives, are mandatory to avoid the pitfalls of Sharon's disastrous Gaza plan.
One truly wonders whether this could be achieved within the framework of the current Israeli autocracy.
[Editor's note: To read Michael Anbar's assessment of the impact
Sharon's barely legal and definitely immoral manipulations have had on
Israeli democracy, click
Michael Anbar, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biophysics and Chairman of the Dept. of Biophysical Sciences at the School of Medicine, University of Buffalo (1977-2002, now retired). Previously, he was Director of Technical Program Development at the Stanford Research Institute.
[Editor's note: To read Michael Anbar's assessment of the impact Sharon's barely legal and definitely immoral manipulations have had on Israeli democracy, click here.]
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