Website of Rabbi Shai Gluskin


Hebron First

Haaretz Editorial, Sunday August 26th, 2001

The Israel Deense Forces action in Hebron's Abu Sneina neighborhood on Thursday night after a Palestinian sniper wounded two Jewish brothers in Bein Shneerson clearly demonstrated the purposelessness of the tiny Jewish settlement in the heart of Hebron and the meaninglessness of the Israeli reaction. The malicious shooting of an 11-year-old by the Palestinian gunman is worthy of all condemnation - but condemnations will not change the conclusion that the Jewish settlers in Hebron should be evacuated.

The knot created by the Israeli settlement effort in the territories - orchestrated and inspired by all Israeli governments since 1967 - will prove very difficult to untangle. But even within the tangled strands of that knot, there are degrees of severity, and the Jewish enclave in Hebron is the first of the settlements that should be evacuated so as to begin a disentanglement. The Hebron settlement was born out of the sin of weak judgment on the part of the national unity government of 1968. Its expansion into a conflict-inspiring nuisance is testimony to the weakness of all governments since - including the Rabin government that failed to remove it even after Baruch Goldstein's massacre of worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in January 1994.

The Jewish settlement in Hebron is an obstruction because of its inherent provocation of the Palestinian community surrounding it, because of the security burden it puts on the IDF, and because of the make up of the settlers who create friction not only with their Arab neighbors, but with the soldiers who are there to protect them, and the small force of international observers documenting the incidents in the town since the IDF withdrawal in January 1997.

The idea of evacuating the 500 Jewish residents of Beit Hadassah, the Avraham Avinu quarter and Tel Romeida, outrages the settlement movement and most of the ministers in the current government because of the precedent it would set, and because of the meaning the Palestinians would give such an eviction - Israel gave into terrorism. But that interpretation should not cloud the judgment of the decision-makers in Jerusalem. There is no future for a provocative Jewish presence in the middle of the 120,000 Palestinian residents of Hebron.

The evacuation of Hebron would symbolize the only framework for a solution of the conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people - an Israeli concession of its hold on the territories in exchange for a Palestinian concession of their demand for a right of return inside the Green line. Only mutual readiness to establish two viable states, with each society forgoing its dream to possess all of the Land of Israel, will put an end to the bloodshed and resolve this painful conflict that has lasted more than 100 years.

This is the first step that is required in the long and difficult road to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In its wake, the same should happen to the isolated settlements in the Gaza Strip where, as proved yesterday, their defense comes at the high price of blood while their existence there only damages the national interest.