Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Natan Sharansky: Why I Am Quitting Your Government

Natan Sharansky resigned from the cabinet yesterday. The Jerusalem Post has printed his resignation letter.

As you know, I have opposed the disengagement plan from the beginning on the grounds that I believe any concessions in the peace process must be linked to democratic reforms within Palestinian society. Not only does the disengagement plan ignore such reforms, it will in fact weaken the prospects for building a free Palestinian society and at the same time strengthen the forces of terror.
Will our departure from Gaza encourage building a society where freedom of speech is protected, where independent courts protect individual rights, and where free markets enable Palestinians to build an independent economic life beyond government control? Will our departure from Gaza end incitement in the Palestinian media or hate-filled indoctrination in Palestinian schools? Will our departure from Gaza result in the dismantling of terror groups or the dismantling of the refugee camps in which four generations of Palestinians have lived in miserable conditions?
Clearly, the answer to all these questions is no.
The guiding principle behind the disengagement plan is based on the illusion that by leaving Gaza we will leave the problems of Gaza behind us. As the mantra goes, “We will be here, and they will be there.” Once again, we are repeating the mistakes of the past by not understanding that the key to building a stable and lasting peace with our Palestinian neighbors lies in encouraging and supporting their efforts to build a democratic society. Obviously, these changes will surely take time, but Israel is not even linking its departure from Gaza to the initiation of the first steps in this direction.
In my view, the disengagement plan is a tragic mistake that will exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians, increase terrorism and dim the prospects of forging a genuine peace. Yet what turns this tragic mistake into a missed opportunity of historic proportions is the fact that as a result of changes in the Palestinian leadership and the firm conviction of the leader of the free world that democracy is essential to stability and peace—a conviction that is guiding America’s actions in other places around the world—an unprecedented window of opportunity has opened.

The news of Sharansky’s resignation has saddened many people, myself included. I also can’t help thinking how much better off the country would be if only all our Knesset members had this much integrity.

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