It’s the month of Av again, and we again “remember” the Gaza evacuation and the destruction of Gush Katif. Why “remember”? Because memories are always selective. They tell us now that the “disengagement” was a leftist idea, supported by leftists, and implemented by other leftists. They tell us that though Leftists claim to oppose the violation of human rights violations, the left did not prevent it.
So let’s put speak truth to the lies.
It was not a “disengagement,” which is a nice name for a horrible deed. It was a military withdrawal from an occupied territory, the evacuation of over 8,000 people from their homes and the destruction of twenty-one settlements. The process included directing the state’s resources—the military, police, judiciary and media—to suppress and silence any opposition. The entire state apparatus was mobilized to carry out a controversial operation while violently silencing—yes, violently—opposing voices. The settlers, and occasionally the entire religious Zionist, became public enemies, “threats to democracy,” and the media, the legal system, and the politicians treated them as such.
Why did they do it?
Ariel Sharon led the evacuation and anyone who followed his career knew he was a bully and a liar. The settlers knew that too. But as long as he lied and tyrannized on their behalf, they called him “Arik, King of Israel.” Sharon carried out the Gaza evacuation in order to save himself from an investigation and save the West Bank settlements from an agreement with the Palestinians. Pressured to accept George Bush’s “road map,” Sharon realized he had to initiate a political process. Because he never intended to talk with the other side he chose to act unilaterally. Dov Weisglass said it clearly: “I agreed with the Americans that some of the [West Bank] settlements would remain entirely off the table, while others could be discussed when the Palestinians become Finns. That’s what we did.” Weisglass’ words are quite clear. Sharon understood that if he wanted peace for the West Bank, he had to give something in return. He sacrificed the most problematic area, the one with the worst Arab to Jew ratio, in order to save an area that was important to him throughout his life. He did it unilaterally rather than through negotiations. And many Leftists thought it was a bad idea. Though most Leftists thought his plan was better than staying there.
Who did that?
A Likud-led government. The truth is that the Likud is the only party in Israel’s history that evacuated vast areas and demolished Jewish settlements. The only one. And yes, Netanyahu too wanted the evacuation. As finance minister in Sharon’s government and despite repeated settler leaders’ pleas to wave the revolt banner and come out against the disengagement, Netanyahu repeatedly refused to do so. He voted four times for the plan and as finance minister allocated special funds to pay for it. Just a week before the fulfillment of the plan (!), when it was clear that nothing could stop it, he voted against it. In her excellent, Lo b’Kol Mechir (Not at Any Price) Anat Roth quotes Zeev (Zambish) Hever (a settler leader) about failing to persuade Netanyahu to vote against the plan: “He didn’t behave like somebody who truly wants to stop [the disengagement]. Every time I left a meeting with him, I would ask my friends and myself: what does he want? With a heavy heart I realized that Netanyahu wanted to be the next prime minister. […] So he decided to let Sharon take the chestnuts out of the fire. Let him break his head on Gaza.”
We made a mistake, shall we return to Gaza?
These days every Right political plan – and I mean every – is based on Hamas’ rule in Gaza. Every West Bank annexation, full or partial, every Palestinian autonomous idea, and every refusal to advance negotiations, depend on the idea that we don’t have to deal with Gaza. So there are less Palestinians to naturalize. We can say that they already have a mini-state. And we can use Gaza as an excuse for not speaking with the Palestinian Authority (because it doesn’t control Gaza, etc. etc.). The Gaza evacuation served Sharon’s Likud and continues serving the Right as well. Therefore, Netanyahu doesn’t dream of conquering Gaza again, and though Avigdor Lieberman talks about it as an option, he never will. The current situation aligns perfectly the Right’s policy of “conflict management.” [By the way, just like the Oslo Accords, which Israel doesn’t cancel because the PA is an asset for the Right. [Like the tampon ad,] it allows them to go with (the territories) and feel without (the occupation).]
Okay, but for principle-moral-and-Jewish reasons we should return to Gaza!
Even without Sharon, Netanyahu, and the brutal evacuation of Gush Katif, the Jewish settlement in Gaza had no future. Anyone who thinks that there is a moral or pragmatic logic to 8,000 people living on a quarter of the Gaza Strip, when the other three quarters populate 1.8 million people. Or where the minority lives in villas surrounded by lawns while the majority is crowded in refugee camps and in crowded cities. Or that a tiny minority has more access to water, electricity, land, and infrastructure than a majority two hundred times greater. Or that the minority enjoys freedom of speech, assembly, voting, and national determination which are denied to the majority. Or that the minority rules over the majority by military force. Anyone who thinks all of this is moral or pragmatic has never studied history and suffers from a severe case of moral blindness. Gush Katif was an ugly moral stain and its residents demonstrated both domination over and moral insensitivity towards their neighbors.
Fine, but the security situation deteriorated since the disengagement…
Not true. The security has improved. Rockets and digging tunnels happened before the evacuation, and it was much easier to hit Israelis. Gush Katif settlements required enormous manpower and resources to protect and they brought no security benefit. As Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis wrote in a paper analyzing The Strategic Balance of Israel’s Withdrawal from Gaza (2005-2016) the civilian presence in the Gaza Strip made it difficult for the military to operate freely. And Roy Sharon discovered a year ago in a series of reports that in the five years between 2000 and 2005, 141 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip. In the decade since the evacuation between 2005 and 2015, including all military operations, 125 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip and the Gaza envelop. The evacuation saved Israeli lives (Thought, the number of Palestinians killed greatly increased).
In short, this is a cynical and difficult move of a liar and a bully Likud leader supported by his party, including Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and designed to preserve the settlements in Judea and Samaria. This is indeed what happened. Along the way, Sharon turned Gaza into the largest prison in the world, brought Israel more security and turned the evacuation of 8,000 people into a national trauma that will make any future evacuation difficult. I promise you that Sharon is smiling in Hell right now.
Tomer Persico posted the original text his Facebook page.
Translation: Maya Haber
Sharon could have negotiated, or at least coordinated the disengagement with the PA, which would have greatly enhanced the PA’s credibility with the Palestinian public by validating the efficacy of the PA’s peaceful diplomatic approach to ending the Occupation. Instead, by acting unilaterally and refusing the PA any role in the disengagement, Sharon enabled Hamas to claim — credibly — that it had driven the Israelis out of Gaza violently with rockets and suicide bombers, thus virtually guaranteeing their eventual takeover of Gaza in the election that ensued and giving birth to the Israeli mantra, “We gave them Gaza and they give us rockets and tunnels, so how can we even think of ‘giving’ them Judea and Samaria?”