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Monday, May 02, 2005

Natan Sharansky's resignation letter

Jerusalem, 23 Nissan 5765
May 2, 2005

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister
Jerusalem

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem.

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 a free market enables 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 generation 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 familiar 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 surely will take time, but Israel is not even linking its departure from Gaza upon 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. Recent events across the globe, whether in former Soviet republics like Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan, or in Arab states like Lebanon and Egypt, prove again and again the ability of democratic forces to induce dramatic change. How absurd that Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, still refuses to believe in the power of freedom to transform the world.

Alongside my concerns, about the danger entailed in a unilateral disengagement from Gaza, I am even more concerned about how the government's approach to disengagement is dividing Israeli society. We are heading towards a terrible rift in the nation and to my great chagrin, I feel that the government is making no serious effort to prevent it.

As Minister I share collective responsibility for every government decision. Now, when the disengagement plan is in the beginning of its implementation stages and all government institutions are exclusively focused on this process, I no longer feel that I can faithfully serve in a government whose central policy - indeed, sole raison d'etre - has become one to which I am so adamantly opposed.

I would like to thank you for our productive cooperation over the last four years. In particular, you sensitivity toward issues of concern to the Jewish People and the strong backing you gave to my efforts to combat anti-Semitism and to strengthen Israel's connection with the Diaspora made possible for the State of Israel to forge the many successes which we achieved together in these areas.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the central role you played in integrating Israel B'aliya into the Likud, a historic step of great national importance.

As in the past, I will continue my lifelong efforts to contribute to the unity and strength of the Jewish People both in Israel and in the Diaspora. I will also continue to advocate and promote the idea that freedom and democracy are essential to peace and security.

Sincerely,

Natan Sharansky

If only the other coalition members who criticize the disengagement plan would have the guts to actually put their money where their mouths are.