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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Just as you cannot taste a cake with only the first ingredient in the mixing bowl, so too can you not yet evaluate the effect of the disengagement, cautions Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now. "It's not black and white. The conflict is not over, we don't see the solution... Although it did not solve the problem, the situation today is better for Israel than before the disengagement."
"In general, we think that the disengagement was a positive step, but it was just one step as part of the whole process we are looking for. Without the whole process of solving the conflict between Palestine and Israel, the disengagement is not enough," said Oppenheimer, explaining that the settlements and outposts in the West Bank create discontent and instability that could eventually lead to a Hamas takeover. "We need to save the West Bank. and after that, we must make a permanent status agreement with the PLO."
Peace Now admits that the disengagement cannot be simply framed as a success because "it didn't supply a quiet, peaceful relationship with Gaza," a consequence Oppenheimer attributes to a lack of negotiations and coordination with the Palestinians. He speculates that had Israel properly coordinated with Fatah at that crucial moment, Hamas might not have won control of Gaza.
He responded to allegations that Gaza has become more violent since the disengagement by saying that "the public memory is too short. It wasn't a peaceful time in Gaza. We don't know whether or not Hamas would be in control of Gaza if we had kept the settlers there."
Left-wing debates, according to Oppenheimer, often are tinted with disappointment that the Palestinians in Gaza could not take the opportunity to build a better community.
Oppenheimer continues to prioritize disengagement from the West Bank, which he calls a much-needed next step following a two-year hiatus in progress since the disengagement.
He explains that progress has been delayed primarily by the loss of Ariel Sharon's leadership and last summer's war in Lebanon which he feels froze the process of achieving a two-state solution. "In the last year, we didn't see anything coming from the government of Israel, not even one illegal outpost has been evacuated since the election."
Oppenheimer and Peace Now continue to rally for dismantling the settlements that his organization labels as "obstacles to peace," assured that the Disengagement of 2005 was only the beginning of a process that they hope will someday include full evacuation of settlers and perhaps compensation for the illegal use of land.