Stuffed with brittle yellowed papers, Nahum Yosefi's frayed
leather briefcase is a time capsule from a chapter in Israeli
history about to repeat itself.
Sifting through his relics - speeches and compensation agreement
drafts from the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982 - Mr.
Yosefi's chuckles are laced with nostalgia for the life he left
behind in Israel's Yamit settlement block more than two decades ago.
"That was the house," he says, pulling out a blueprint for his two-
floor, seven-room home. "And they destroyed it completely."
Some 6,000 Yamit settlers like Yosefi watched their homes
bulldozed in the name of peace with Egypt. The landmark evacuation -
ordered by then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and carried
out by his defense minister, Ariel Sharon - was the first time
Israel destroyed settlements it established in territories seized
during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Yamit survives as the sole precedent for the evacuation of about
9,000 settlers from the Gaza and the West Bank, scheduled for mid-
August. Scenes of Israeli soldiers dragging holdouts off a hotel
rooftop endure as the seminal image from the Yamit evacuation - a
reminder of the settler's dogged determination to resist being
To some extent, the turmoil from 23 years ago is fueling
expectations that the Gaza withdrawal will be even more unruly.
Wednesday, tension between Israeli police and pullout opponents
remained high. Thousands of protesters in a farming village in
southern Israel said they planned to march toward Gaza, now a closed
military zone, and into the Gush Katif settlement as some 20,000
police and soldiers encircled them for a second day.
Indeed, the Gaza pullback - a unilateral exit without any
Palestinian concession in return - has stirred considerably more
controversy than the withdrawal from Yamit, the price of the 1979
Peace treaty with Egypt.
Public support for the Gaza pullout has fallen from nearly two-
thirds just one year ago to about 50 percent as recently as last
month, according to recent surveys. The sacrifice of Yamit, by
contrast, was considered a fair tradeoff by Israelis, says Akiva
Eldar, a journalist at Haaretz newspaper who recently coauthored a
history of the settler movement.
"They say, 'Hey we got peace and it was worth it,' " says Mr.
Eldar. "In the collective memory of Israelis, the trauma of Yamit
victims was a justified trauma."
The Yamit settlers dispersed throughout the country. Some, like
Yosefi, moved together in a group to establish new communities
inside Israel. Others moved to the Gaza Strip to become part of the
expanding settler community there.
As the country girds itself for the August evacuation in Gaza,
the crisis of crushed idealism and eviction has been reawakened
among the veterans of 1982. …