The Six Day War's second most popular hit (directly behind "Jerusalem of Gold") was a song addressing Sharm e-Sheikh as a longed-for lover. The lyrics were inane, but the sentiment obviously struck a chord: "We have returned to you for a second time Sharm e-Sheikh; you were in our hearts always... Oh Sharm e-Sheikh, we've come back to you again!"
We first took Sharm over in 1956 when the Sinai Campaign was launched in response to unrelenting terrorist predations (or "infiltrations" in yesteryear's parlance), heaping Soviet arms supplies to the Arab world and maritime blockades. That's why another 1967 ditty (by the same lyricist, Amos Ettinger) waxed nostalgic: "Here they are before us again - the dunes and sand; we remember them well from '56 and to them we return despite all."
The fruits of that stunning 1956 victory were relinquished in 1957 at Washington's insistence. It was the second time Israel retreated from Sinai. The first was in 1949.
WITHDRAWING FROM territory has become a cyclical habit for Israel - nearly as old as the state itself. We got into the routine already at the end of our War of Independence - after seven Arab armies invaded newborn Israel with hoarsely-broadcast genocidal intent. By the time their blusterous belligerence was thwarted at great cost - 6,000 Israeli dead out of a population of 600,000 - super-vulnerable miniature Israel ended up controlling a chunk of the Sinai Peninsula. Hoping for peace and bliss, we ceded it.
We also gave up the Gaza Strip more than once. After regaining dominion in 1957, Egypt's head-honcho Gamal Abdel Nasser perpetrated gruesome purges and frightened Gazans off ever cooperating with Israelis. In 1994 treacherous import Yasser Arafat was installed by Israeli Osloite dupes to govern most of the Strip and another reign of terror ensued. But the most painful and dishonorable departure from Gaza was 2005's disengagement. Twenty-one veteran Jewish communities were uprooted by an administration pursuing a corrupt agenda. Homes were razed and 9,000 inhabitants forcibly expelled. Crowing Gazans, flushed with barbaric frenzy, turned the vacated farms into Hamas training grounds and rocket launching pads. So much for giving peace a chance!
THOSE OF us who steadfastly refused to be hoodwinked foresaw the debacle. Nonetheless, though we were demonized as warmongers and derided as scare-mongers, even we underestimated the scope of the fiasco. We warned that what would be portrayed as an Israeli rout by Hamas firepower would boost fanatics, lead to an extremist takeover and result in rockets hitting Ashkelon. In retrospect, we were woefully inadequate at scare-mongering. Gazan rockets now reach Ashdod, Beersheba, Yavne and Gedera. Rishon was put on notice. Holon is next door. Even the pessimists among us were evidently naively optimistic.
But do withdrawal advocates beat their breasts? Even a wee semi-guilty tap on the upper torso? Forget it. Know-it-alls never err. Shimon Peres, rewarded with the presidency for matchless political dexterity, now self-importantly imparts his wisdom to impressionable shell-shocked schoolchildren. Ehud Barak, architect of the hasty midnight escape from Lebanon in 2000, postures as the masterful military macho man. Tzipi Livni, proud progenitor of 2006's preposterous Resolution 1701, last week delivered diplomatic defeat in the shape of Resolution 1860. No regret, not a hint of contrition. The suffering of the South, one may be led to believe, resulted from a recurrent, unavoidable natural disaster - a force majeure, which nobody could forecast, much less prevent.
Kassams, Grads and mortar shells rained on civilians should have instantly been recognized as inevitable fallout from disengagement's folly. We were promised that disengagement would bolster our security. Just before the Likud's referendum on the issue (the one Ariel Sharon ignominiously lost and consequently ignored), the then-premier assured the electorate that "disengagement is good for our national defense. It'll enable us to pursue an uncompromising war against terror. It'll give us a free hand to combat terrorists. Disengagement will improve the IDF's ability to strike back and will confer legitimacy upon its operations."
THROUGH CONVOLUTED cerebral contortions Israel's unrepentant "Peace Camp" kept asserting that assorted missiles and lethal projectiles, deliberately aimed at noncombatants, don't on their own expose disengagement as a dismal flop. The incursion into Gaza, however, constitutes an incontrovertible admission of disengagement's utter washout.
Disengagement's most elementary definition is to free or detach oneself from a given association. It's a disconnection, a separation. Absurdly we continue to supply finances, fuel, electricity, food, medicaments and water (at Israeli taxpayers' expense) to our mortal enemies. Yet the actual reentry into Gaza is as explicit an acknowledgement as can be that disengagement failed, that we are not disengaged, that disengagement doesn't hinge on our wishful thinking, that disengagement is as much a chimera as truce, peace and all gradations in between.
Forced back into areas from which we disengaged, we are patently engaged. Moreover, any future "disengagement" will necessitate reengagement. Experience indisputably demonstrates that whichever territory Israel cedes is soon converted into a full-blown strategic threat. We had to reenter Lebanon in 2006 subsequent to Barak's brilliant unilateral disengagement. Because we returned so clumsily and because of Livni's diplomatic fiasco, the northern menace has magnified threefold. We had to regain control of the PA's Samarian cities in 2002 to halt the slaughter on the streets of central Israel. It's a surefire bet that things will get horribly bloodier if we stupidly surrender control in Judea and Samaria again. Now we had to reappear on Gaza's scene, much as we sacrificed to disengage from it.
SHARON'S PROCLAIMED thesis was that by ejecting Jews from the Strip, we would secure unstinting overseas credit for our self-defense. He probably didn't believe his own enticements, but the Left enthusiastically hawked the bait and all too many ordinary folks swallowed the barefaced blarney hook, line and sinker. For the international community and the foreign media, we remain pariahs and our self-defense continues to be scathingly condemned - just as everything was before Gush Katif and the Philadelphi corridor were abandoned. Gaza was dangerous then for our soldiers, but it has become all the more dangerous since. Sderot and its western Negev neighbors suffered then, but nothing like what followed the deception dubbed disengagement.
Nevertheless, disengagement's most ardent promoters haven't paid the political price and don't evince the slightest discomfiture or embarrassment. Livni, Barak, et al. show no inclination to hide remorsefully from public view. On the contrary, they paint themselves as heroes of the hour. After all, they brought us back to Gaza. Who knows - they may commission an updated version of the Ode to Sharm. Our airwaves may soon resonate with a new top-of-the-pops: "We have returned to you for a third time Gaza; you were in our hearts always... Oh Gaza, we've come back to you again!"