Israel Harel in Today's Haaretz:
A happy evacuation
By Israel Harel
In the western Negev, according to Channel 2 television, Israel is feverishly implementing the lessons of Lebanon. When the Qassam fire resumes - and no one doubts this will happen - residents will be evacuated to beyond the rockets' range. Each community already knows where its residents will be evacuated - not far from their homes, but outside rocket range - and even which household will host each family. These evacuees, say the planners, will not need Arcadi Gaydamak's tent city, and their evacuation will not produce the scenes we witnessed in Sderot, when residents fought over places on the buses that brought them to Eilat - another Gaydamak initiative. In the well-organized regional councils, which mainly comprise kibbutzim, there will be no panicked flight by the healthy and wealthy as occurred in Safed, Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona. Here, community leaders say, there will be an organized evacuation. No one will be abandoned to his fate.
Two days after this plan was revealed, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, an eternal pessimist, informed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that over the last year, the year of the cease-fire in Gaza, more than 30 tons of explosives were smuggled into the Strip, and improved rockets, among other things, are now being built with this material. Kiryat Gat and other nearby towns, and not just Sderot and Ashkelon, will now be in Qassam range. The evacuation planners are worried: Most of the communities that are supposed to house the evacuees now in rocket range will themselves be in range of the new rockets. But they, and residents of the Kiryat Gat region as well, would be well-advised not to go into a panic.
The Shin Bet, as is its wont, likes to exaggerate. For instance, the public remembers its warning - which, of course, proved false - about the results of the disengagement. The same is true of its false prophecies on the eve of the historic withdrawal from Lebanon, which brought Israel, at the price of a few kidnapped and killed Israelis, years of quiet and growth in the Galilee. The organization reached its peak of exaggeration when it classified the recent declarations by Israeli Arab leaders, who represent only a negligible minority, as a strategic threat. Declarations, even if they are unpleasant, do not kill. Qassams do. Therefore, there is no need to alter the doctrine which holds that comprehensive evacuations are the winning answer to the Qassam terror.
It is necessary, of course, to change the names of the host kibbutzim, as the existing ones will now also be in rocket range. We must also not forget to include these in the evacuation plan. But there are communities east, north and south of Kiryat Gat that have been suffering from population loss for years, and they would be happy to host the evacuees - even permanently. And what will happen when the Palestinians increase the range beyond Kiryat Gat? Israel will not be orphaned. As it says in the holy scriptures, we have a broad and expansive land. And the Jewish people, for whom welcoming guests was a foundational commandment, will be happy to observe this commandment in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and Yavneh. And when the range increases still further, in Nes Tziona and Rehovot as well.
I therefore propose that the line at which the rocket fire becomes a casus belli - the "here and no farther" line - be drawn, as it was in the last war, at Tel Aviv. (And congratulations to the defense minister on the committee he has set up to find a name that will reflect his achievements and those of the Israel Defense Forces in this eventful war.) Because if tens of thousands of refugees were to flood its streets, that might make life difficult for the residents and disrupt the normal routine of life in the only city that manages to maintain its sanity without interruption. This city also houses the stock exchange and the state's principal cultural treasures. And nearby, along that same horizontal line, sits Israel's only international airport. Just as long as the rockets do not reach there, God forbid. If they do, how will we be able to evacuate the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have equipped themselves with foreign passports in recent years, precisely for this purpose?
[I believe in God, and in His eternal covenant with Israel. The question that won't leave me is: If we keep beating up the Torah (both by rejecting it and abusing it), why should He not invoke the penalty clauses of that Covenant?]