Why 'Greater Israel' Never Came to Be

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FOR those who long considered it folly to settle a handful of Jews among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the decision to remove them starting this week seems an acceptance of the obvious. What possible future could the settlers have had? How could their presence have done the state of Israel any good?

But for those, like Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who created and nurtured the settlements, the move to dismantle them is something very different. It is an admission not of error but of failure. Their cherished goal - the resettlement of the full biblical land of Israel by contemporary Jews - is not to be. The reason: not enough of them came.

"We have had to come to terms with certain unanticipated realities," acknowledged Arye Mekel, Israeli consul general in New York. "Ideologically, we are disappointed. A pure Zionist must be disappointed because Zionism meant the Jews of the world would take their baggage and move to Israel. Most did not."

David Kimche, who was director general of Israel's foreign ministry in the 1980's, noted: "The old Zionist nationalists' anthem was a state on 'the two banks of the River Jordan.' When that became impractical, we talked about 'greater Israel,' from the Jordan to the sea. But people now realize that this, too, is something we won't be able to achieve."

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