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The Results of Disengagement – Five Years Later

 

Dror Vanunu – 2010

Background: In August 2005, following a moral, political and social struggle, involving exceptionally strong emotions and which tore the Israeli public apart, nearly causing a civil war, the Government of Israel unilaterally uprooted the 21 beautiful communities of Gush Katif and an additional 4 communities in Northern Samaria. At the same time, the IDF completely withdrew from the area and dismantled all of its military installations in Gaza, retreating to new positions along the Green Line. The Declared Aims of the Plan were: 1. To Stimulate the Peace Process: Uprooting the communities was supposed to prevent any further friction between the Palestinian and Jewish civilian populations and between the Palestinians and the Israeli army. As a result, the Palestinians would no longer have any reason to harm Israel and the southern region of Israel would enjoy peace and quiet.. 2. To Stimulate the Palestinian Economy: Transferring the community lands to the Arabs, including their infrastructure and many public buildings, was expected to create significant economic potential in the area and would provide the incentive for the local population to invest in economic growth rather than terrorism. Creating a positive atmosphere within Gaza, therefore, was expected to facilitate the renewal of the Peace Process. 3. To Legally Separate Israel from Gaza: The Disengagement process was supposed to transfer the entire Gaza area to independent Palestinian control, as a result of which, Israel would no longer be responsible for the Palestinians of Gaza. This would grant them civil control over the ports and the airways. 4. To Improve Israel’s Standing in the International Community: Israel believed that these unilateral steps would strengthen its international standing as a peace-seeking country, willing to take dramatic steps in order to break the political stagnate. A further factor to be considered as part of the rationale behind the Disengagement was President George W. Bush’s letter of commitment to support Israel on such open negotiation issues as the Right of Return, “settlement blocs” in Judea and Samaria, and the complete dismantling of all terrorist organizations and their infrastructure as a pre-requisite for further negotiations.

The Price Israel Paid:

The Moral Price:

Land concessions in areas that have historically been an inseparable part of the Land of Israel undermines Israel’s claim to any part of the land based on biblical and historical arguments. The actual uprooting of Israeli citizens, pioneers who had been encouraged by the Government of Israel to settle Gush Katif for decades, ordering 57, 000 Israeli Defense Force soldiers and policemen to physically remove these people from their homes, served to deepen the divide within the nation and caused a rift that has yet to mend. The Economic Price: The State of Israel has, thus far, spent 23.5 billion shekels (6.35 billion dollars) on the Disengagement and its aftermath, as follows: • 10.8 billion shekels for uprooting the communities, evacuating the army camps and establishing new military bases, providing temporary housing solutions for Gush Katif residents (hotels, caravillas) and compensation for residents. • 1 billion shekels for the period of residence in the temporary residential sites (according to Prof. Ezra Sedan) • 2 billion shekels for armored protection of homes and schools in S’derot and in the Kibbitzim just outside of the Gaza Strip. (See The Security Price Below) • 8.2 billion shekels for Operation Cast Lead (See The Security Price Below) • 1.5 billion shekels, the estimated value of the infrastructure left behind in the Gaza Strip. The Security Price: Within months of the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Hamas seized control of the entire Strip. Effectively operation as “Hamastan”, Gaza has become a forward base of Iran, located on Israel’s southern border. Huge supplies of advanced weapons and materiel, including explosives, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft missiles are being smuggled into Gaza through tunnels joining Egypt to Gaza. In addition, terrorists and weapons experts with known connections to Al-Queada are finding their way into Gaza through these same tunnels. Israel’s intelligence suffered a serious blow, as the withdrawal effectively closed all intelligence sources previously available to Israel from within Gaza, critical in preventing terror attacks. This lack of assets in Gaza has also prevented the IDF from mounting a campaign to liberate IDF soldier Gilad Shalit; held by Hamas, in contravention of international law, since June 2006. Since the Disengagement, thousands of rockets have been fired towards S’derot, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Yavne while the smuggling of more advanced and precise rockets into Gaza places the Gush Dan (Greater Tel-Aviv area) in missile range as well. Operation Cast Lead required the use of thousands of soldiers in order to inflict significant damage to the terrorist infrastructure; something which prior to Israel’s Disengagement could have been accomplished by a much smaller force! The Legal Price: Despite the drastic steps taken by Israel in “disengaging” from 21 communities and in withdrawing its forces to the 1967 border, the international community, the United Nations, and human rights movements, continue to view Israel as legally responsible for the situation of the Gaza residents. The Goldstone report, adopted by the United Nations following defensive actions taken by Israel in response to attacks and rocket fire aimed at the citizens of Israel, completely ignored Israel’s years- long restraint and found Israel guilty of war crimes. The International Price: Israel has become far more vulnerable internationally following Disengagement. The retreat from Gaza whetted the appetite of the international community for further withdrawals from Jude, Samaria and Jerusalem, while even Israel’s closest friends have joined demands for massive withdrawals. Even worse, the very legitimacy of the State of Israel has been called into question; and the Jews are being viewed by many as temporary conquerors occupiers of land, not only in Judea and Samaria, but in all of Israel. “The flotilla of terror” was a natural outcome of a growing international perception of Israel as a state which is unjustifiably blockading helpless civilians in the Gaza Strip. Hiding behind humanitarian mantras, Muslim fanatics are joining so-called peace activists in order to harm Israel. These actions have led to Israel’s further isolation in the world arena and has irreperably damaged Israel’s international status. How did the Disengagement Affect the Palestinians? The Palestinians viewed the Disengagement as a sign of Israeli weakness. It strengthened their assumption that “Jews only understand force” – what they did not achieve through years of negotiations they were able to obtain wholly through armed conflict. This assumption led, in January 2006, to a Hamas victory in Palestinian democratic elections held just three months after the disengagement. Prior to the disengagement, the Palestinians claimed that they would use the residential, agricultural, and commercial areas evacuated by Israel to provide housing an employment for Palestinian “refugees”. In fact, terrorist centers and a Hamas training camp have been established on the ruins of Gush Katif communities. Hundreds of public buildings left behind by Israel, greenhouses that were purchased by the World Bank, and civilian infrastructure worth billions of dollars, have been plundered or are being used for terror. How did Disengagement Affect the Former Residents of Gush Katif? Despite many efforts, the State of Israel has not yet managed to rehabilitate the expellees from Gush Katif. The collapse of the entire Gush Katif economy, including 400 agricultural farms and related industries, meant that markets were lost and the 150 million dollars of annual income resulting from Gush Katif agricultural produce, the industrial area at the Erez crossing and Neve Dekalim businesses, have disappeared. Almost nothing has been initiated to replace this lost income or to jump start new initiatives that would replace the loss of such a huge source of inc