Nehemia Shtrasler
Haaretz (Opinion)
October 7, 2011 - 12:00am

There were so many accolades and so much praise that I found myself getting confused. Was this the same Hanan Porat that I also knew? True, he was an idealist, and charismatic, and modest, and he always said what he felt in his heart. True, also, that he was the great leader of Gush Emunim. But we must not forget, and this is the tragic part of the story, that his biggest success - covering the West Bank with a carpet of Israeli settlements - was also the greatest disaster that befell the people of Israel.

My father used to say that Hanan Porat was a very dangerous man. He looked so nice, so handsome, and he always smiled a smile of pure olive oil, so that you would become confused and charmed by him and wouldn't notice that he was leading you, pied piper-style to a disaster.

His admirers pointed out this week what a gigantic contribution he had made to the settlement enterprise on the West Bank. But Porat did not make do with Judea and Samaria. He was a maximalist. He wanted everything. When Menachem Begin signed the peace treaty with Egypt, he attacked him with fury and joined MK Geula Cohen, who bolted the Likud to form the rightwing Tehiya Party. Because even in return for peace with Egypt he believed it was forbidden to return even one grain of sand in Sinai. Imagine our situation in the 32 years that have since passed without (even a cold ) peace with Cairo. How many soldiers would have been killed, how many wars would have broken out, how many tens of billions of shekels would have been wasted?

That was also Porat's approach with regard to evacuating Gush Katif. From his point of view, even the Gaza Strip, with its 1.5 million Arabs, was ours and we should not give up even one clod of its earth, despite the fact that it was not part of the Land of Israel.

Immediately after the Yom Kippur War, Porat understood that if he could fill Judea and Samaria with dozens of settlements and hundreds of thousands of settlers, no government would be able to evacuate the territories and arrive at a peace agreement because no government would have sufficient strength and resources to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people. In that way, we would remain forever in Judea and Samaria and continue to live (or to die ) by the sword.

Porat and Moshe Levinger, with their messianic enthusiasm, began to realize this strategy at the train station in Sebastia, in the winter of 1975, when then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres bowed to the pressures and granted permission to set up a temporary settlement at the Kadum army camp near Nablus. From that one settlement, Kedumim, 150 settlements have since sprung up and they have turned Israel into an apartheid state that is despised in the world, threatened from every direction, and left (almost ) without a single friend. Turkey lashes out at us, Egypt expels our diplomats, the Jordanian monarch is in despair, the German chancellor reprimands us, and only American President Barack Obama is still suffering in silence. But there is one achievement - it is not possible to arrive at a peace agreement.

The continued occupation and the cruel acts in the territories - from stealing lands to burning mosques - are threatening our very existence. Because world public opinion is turning against us, and in democratic regimes public opinion, at the end of the day, determines the tune for the government. The abuse in the territories is also in total contradiction to the moral teachings of Israel's prophets - Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah - but Porat and his colleagues knew only the Book of Joshua.

The settlement in the territories also has an economic angle. That is because the massive and expensive construction there comes precisely at the expense of the Negev and Galilee. The construction of the settlements, the expensive infrastructures in the mountains, paving the roads, giving the settlers houses that are half free, the huge security expenses, the reductions in taxes for settlers and investors, the granting of excessive rights for education, the double budgets for the local authorities - all these tens of billions have come at the expense of the residents of Israel's outlying regions and at the expense of budgets for education, welfare and infrastructures within the Green Line. When will we comprehend that?

Indeed Porat was an honest man, and he had a vision which actually managed to change the face of reality. But all of that merely strengthens the need to argue with his opinions and deeds. In Barbara Tuchman's famous book, "The March of Folly," there are several examples of historic decisions which changed the face of reality, but led people to disaster. The settlement enterprise in the territories is another chapter in that book.


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