Democracy first

The democratic rules of the game aren't limited to nonviolence; they include respect for majority rule.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Yesterday, thousands of Israelis expressed their support for resettling Homesh, one of the settlements that were dismantled in Samaria in the summer of 2005, along with all the settlements in the Gaza Strip. The IDF and police handled the situation well, allowing the protesters to walk to the site where Homesh once stood, while not allowing the settlement to be illegally rebuilt. The protesters also acted in a democratic way, using nonviolent measures to oppose laws they believe are mistaken. Earlier this month, four families who were removed from Homesh wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz arguing that disengagement had been invalidated and should be reversed. "The plan, which violated our constitutional rights, was approved by the High Court based on the premise that this was being done for a greater good," the letter said. "The court was told that security would improve as a result of the move. The sad reality is now blowing up in our faces; it would appear that the government's claims have no link to reality. Legally, there is no doubt that the factual basis for the court's decision was mistaken." Many would agree that disengagement was a mistake, or at least that it turned out much differently than its advocates had promised. These advocates did not predict that disengagement would be followed by hundreds of Kassam rocket attacks against Israel, by other terror attacks and kidnappings, and by last summer's two-front war. Indeed, they predicted the opposite: that the Palestinians would have no reason to attack Israel from Gaza and every reason not to, and that Israel's diplomatic and security situation would substantially improve. None of this, however, means that part of the settler movement can automatically carry out its "Homesh First" plan, whereby all of the dismantled settlements will be rebuilt. These protesters seem well-versed in the methods of civil disobedience, and may see the wisdom in staying within certain red lines, but they must also remember the basic rule underlying all democratic action: in the end, a majority of the people must be convinced. The democratic rules of the game are not limited to nonviolence; they also include a basic respect for majority rule. And while it is possible to argue that even representative institutions, such as the government and the Knesset, do not always perfectly reflect the popular will, it is not possible to argue that the "Homesh First" idea has significant, let alone majority, popular support. At some level, the organizers may recognize this. As one said, "Even if we are evacuated we'll return the following day, and after Independence Day we'll begin working on the political front." But what would the real aim of such political activity be? It should be clear that the aim would not just be to oppose any further dismantling of settlements and to reverse what has already been done. The ultimate agenda is what motivated the placement of Homesh and certain other settlements in the first place: the blocking of a Palestinian state. As Meir Har-Zion, a legendary soldier who helped found Ariel Sharon's "101" antiterror unit, explained in Ma'ariv, "I am very much in favor of going to Homesh. If an Arab state is established in the heart of the Land of Israel, it will be a terrible disaster... [Homesh] is the beginning of turning the tables... there will be more settlements later on." It is certainly legitimate to debate the wisdom of creating a Palestinian state, especially when its de facto prototype has already openly embraced terrorism and committed itself to Israel's destruction. It is also legitimate to advocate measures that could impose a territorial price on the refusal of the Palestinians to peacefully embrace a two-state solution. There is currently an Israeli consensus, however, that a Jewish state can neither absorb nor expel the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria while remaining both Jewish and democratic. Those behind "Homesh First" can try and shift this consensus, but they cannot ignore it, let alone impose their will in place of the majority.