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LA Times Concludes: Withdrawal From Gaza Was not Smart

Five years after, a major US newspaper summarizes Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza: “It was a big mistake.”
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/10/2010, 1:40 PM / Last Update: 8/10/2010, 1:46 PM

Five years after, a major U.S. newspaper summarizes Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza: “It was a big mistake.”

Entitled “Lessons and Legacies of Israel's Gaza Withdrawal,” the August 8th Los Angeles Times piece by Edmund Sanders lists a series of conclusions that can be drawn from the abrupt, unilateral pullout from Gush Katif in Gaza orchestrated by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the summer of 2005. Just five months later, Sharon suffered massive hemorrhaging and entered the comatose state from which he has not awoken.

Among the key lessons and legacies listed by the LA Times are these:

Although disengagement enjoyed broad support at the time, almost no one calls it a success today…  It helped put Hamas in power… Security for Israelis didn't improve – and even worsened… It contributed to increased isolation for Israel internationally… It raised doubts as to whether the Palestinians are actually ready for statehood... Though the actual expulsion went more easily than expected, it made Israelis more cynical about the chances for future land-for-peace deals.

In this last connection, the Times article does not note the ongoing difficulties in resettling the 9,000 expelled Jewish citizens. It states: “Gaza was a key test of whether an Israeli government would pay the political price needed to remove 9,000 settlers. Dire predictions that such moves would tear the nation apart turned out to be exaggerated.” 

This, however, is an under-estimate of the terrific damage domestic damaged that was caused, both in terms of solidarity felt by a significant political sector with the government and the suffering caused to the uprooted settlers themselves.

In addition, Sanders does not note that a government commission assigned to investigate its handling of the expelled citizens found that the government had utterly failed in this regard.

In any event, “only 35 percent [of Israelis] envision evacuations [in some/all Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria],” Sanders concludes, compared with 58 percent in 2005.

Supportive Wind for Terrorism
Sanders confirms that the anti-Disengagement camp’s warning that the withdrawal would provide a supportive back-wind for terrorism came true. “Hamas got to crow that its policy of armed resistance and attacks on Israeli civilians had led to the withdrawal,” he writes. “Immediately after the pullout, 84 percent of Palestinians viewed the disengagement as a ‘victory’ for armed resistance… Perceptions of a Hamas triumph over Israel and frustration over Fatah's alleged corruption propelled Hamas — which in 2004 was polling at just 20 percent — to victory in several local elections a few months after the withdrawal. In 2006, Hamas won parliamentary polls; a year later, it seized control of Gaza by force, creating the current Fatah-Hamas rift.”

Regarding Sharon’s false prediction that quitting Gaza was likely to save Israeli lives, Sanders writes that Israel actually “traded a low-intensity quagmire for what Prime Minister Netanyahu today calls an ‘Iranian port’ south of Tel Aviv, referring to Iranian support for Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza. Despite Israel's attempts to seal off borders, seaports and airspace, longer-range rockets were developed, and soon thousands were being launched at southern Israeli cities.”

“In the two years before disengagement,” Sanders writes, “seven Israelis were killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. Since the pullout, 28 have been killed, according to the Sderot Media Center.”