Friday, November 13, 2009
More than Homesh is at stake
This week, 25 IDF reservists from the Shimshon - Samson - battalion presented their commanders with a petition saying they did not want to be involved in evacuating West Bank settlements or outposts. They wanted the unit to return to its core values rather than hounding wayward settlers who keep coming back to Homesh, one of the settlements in Samaria dismantled during the 2005 disengagement.
The reservists were further incensed about having to confront settlers on Shabbat. But their main complaint was of being "exploited to carry out political policies that have no relation" to Israel's security needs.
The reservists did not say they would refuse orders.
The Shimshon battalion was established in 1997 and initially confronted Palestinian rioters in the Gaza Strip; it now polices Judea and Samaria. By capturing hundreds of wanted Palestinians, Shimshon has done more than any other Central Command unit to secure the West Bank.
The battalion is part of the Kfir Brigade, two of whose soldiers interrupted an IDF ceremony at the Western Wall three weeks ago by holding up a "Don't Evacuate Homesh" sign. For their disobedience, Aryeh Arbus and Ahiyah Ovadya were handed 20-day sentences in a military lockup and expelled from their unit.
The two have nevertheless become poster boys in a campaign to prevent the IDF from serving as an "expulsion force." Indeed, an anonymous American benefactor has supposedly contributed NIS 40,000 to the families of the young martyrs.
IMPROBABLY, the defenders of Homesh can trace their "lineage of dissent" to another group - the 350 reservists who, in March 1978, sent a letter to prime minister Menachem Begin saying his attachment to the Land of Israel and to settlements had become an obstacle to peace.
At its inception, Peace Now received funding not from foreign governments and foundations, but from the Kibbutz Movement and a few wealthy industrialists. Within a month, the grass-roots movement had brought 30,000 demonstrators into the streets of Tel Aviv to put pressure on Begin as he negotiated with Anwar Sadat.
Because it was so showily led by reserve officers, Peace Now broke a taboo about the propriety of manipulating military rank to leverage political outcomes. Within three weeks of the Tel Aviv rally, a group of 37 liberal Jewish Americans signed a petition in support of Peace Now, making page 1 of The New York Times.
Over the years, some who started out with Peace Now began taking extremist positions - for instance, refusing to do army service in the "Occupied Territories."
A RECIPE for national disaster, brewed by the Left, is now percolating on the Right. We're witnessing a parallel "selective refusal." Right-wing soldiers will serve so long as they're not asked to do something that conflicts with their political views.
Left unchecked, this phenomenon could prove fatal to the Third Commonwealth.
For what is at stake is whether a free and independent Jewish people can govern themselves, or are doomed - like our ancestors - to break up into separate kingdoms and be swallowed by our enemies.
The issue is not the wisdom - or lack thereof - of government policies. It is almost beside the point that territorial compromise, in return for genuine peace, is the platform of all the major parties in the country.
It does not matter, for the purposes of this argument, that the Palestinian polity shows no genuine interest in coming to terms with a Jewish state in any boundaries.
It makes no difference that Israeli governments have pursued incoherent and flip-flopping polices on settlements.
What does matter is that the legitimacy of the regime - not any particular government, but of the Zionist idea - is being undercut.
Of course the government is using the army as a political tool. The army is nothing if not a means for the government to exercise its political will. It does so by protecting settlers against the wishes of some, and by dismantling outposts against the wishes of others.
This argument will prove unpersuasive to those whose allegiance is foremost to the land. But it behooves those who appreciate how fortunate our generation is to live in this imperfect, chaotic, frustrating country to maintain Zionist discipline.
To do otherwise, men of Shimshon, is to pull down the temple pillars upon us all.
Politico-Strategic Briefing... Enhance and deepen your understanding of Israel...Go beyond the 24/7 news cycle... Elliot Jager is a Jerusalem-based journalist, former NYU political science lecturer and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report. He is a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily (Mosaic). His 2017 book, The Balfour Declaration Sixty-Seven Words – 100 Years of Conflict told the story of what is, arguably, the most important political letter of the 20th century and why it still matters. Elliot will customize his briefings to suit your interests and schedule. He can meet you over breakfast before you start your day of touring or when you are back at your hotel.