Israeli Politicians Do Not Regret the 2005 Disengagement

The search for those who regret the Disengagement/expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria continues - with only modest success.

Hillel Fendel,

A search for politicians who regret the 2005 Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Samaria has turned up only modest success. In August 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demolished 25 Jewish towns and forcibly removed their residents in a move publicized as one that would increase security for Israel.

Nationalist-camp journalist Haggai Segal - co-host of a Knesset Channel TV show with ex-MK Ilan Gillon of the left-wing Meretz Party, and a former Maariv columnist - sought out public figures who have switched sides in the Disengagement debate.  "I did not find any who were involved in the actual decision-making process who have expressed regret and say openly that they made a mistake," Segal said on Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine on Sunday.

"Nor have there been too many who said they wouldn't do it again," Segal lamented. "I found about five who said this, but they were not involved in the decision-making process."

"For instance, Gen. (ret.) Gershon HaCohen, who was responsible for overseeing the entire uprooting in Gush Katif on behalf of the IDF, said a year later, 'I was involved in a crime against the Jewish People.'"  HaCohen had previously explained that the most important value from his standpoint was the supremacy of following the democratically-determined orders of the army and government.  His statement a year later, therefore, did not necessarily express a reversal of his opinions.

Segal also noted that Israel's Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry, Prof. Aharon Ciechanover, said, "I was in favor of the Disengagement, hoping it would bring peace with the Palestinians, but I was wrong."  Columnist
Dan Margalit did not quite express regret, Segal said, but rather wrote, "I will never again support something similar."

Arutz-7 research has turned up other public figures who have expressed various measures of regret over the Disengagement. MK Tzachi HaNegbi said in October 2006, "My assessment is that the Disengagement was a mistake.” HaNegbi was a Likud Party MK during the Disengagement, and is now the Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on behalf of the Kadima Party. 

"The Disengagement was perceived as weakness," HaNegbi continued, "and that weakness brought about attacks in Gaza and the North… It did not contribute to security or to peace. It did not prove itself in very many regards... though it did give us much maneuverability with regard to the global sphere."

In November of last year, Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Labor told a regional radio station, "I admit and I confess that I was among those who strongly supported [former PM] Ariel Sharon [and the Disengagement]. Today I say, with my head held high, ‘We erred, we made a very big mistake... Withdrawals can only work when the areas are handed over to responsible hands and rooted in agreements and international guarantees. Here we have a precedent - a territory we left turns into a base for terror - period."

In January of this year, ex-IDF general Oren Shachor - who was forced to resign about ten years ago after he leaked details of secret Hevron negotiations to then-opposition leader Shimon Peres - told INN's Uzi Baruch that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was a mistake: "At the time, I thought differently, but there is [now] no doubt that the Disengagement was an error.  It has resulted in the formation of a Hamastan state in Gaza... In addition, there is an entire population that is still without homes and with unsolved problems - many thousands of people.  I believe that we should admit openly: The Disengagement was a mistake."

In January 2007, ex-CIA director James Woolsey told IsraelNationalRadio's Alex Traiman, "Unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank would not be a wise step for Israel to take; when one sees what happened in Gaza, and sees the political advantage that Hamas has taken of the situation to claim unilateral victory and now to be part of the PA government - how many failures do you need before you recognize that it's a failure?"

Others who have changed their minds about the Disengagement include left-wing journalist Ilana Dayan, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland (Chairman of the National Security Council at the time of the Disengagement), broadcaster and TV personality Avri Gilad, ardent Disengagement supporter and left-wing commentator for Haaretz newspaper Yoel Marcus, IDF Central Commander Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, and TV personality and commentator Yair Lapid. 

The Public Knows Best
Segal concluded, "There has become a slight trend of late for commentators to say that the Disengagement was a mistake, but I don't trust them.  They often continue to support further withdrawals.  But I do see hope from a different direction: the public. Many people truly see the folly of the Disengagement  - especially after the Second Lebanon War and the Kassam rockets and the buildup of Hamas - and I have confidence that if there would be a referendum on a future withdrawal, it would be defeated."