In a belated “mea culpa,” former IDF Southern Command head Dan Harel, who was in charge of the IDF units that removed some 10,000 Gush Katif Jews from their homes during the 2005 "disengagement" from Gaza, said Saturday night that Israel “may have made a mistake” in leaving Gaza as it did. Speaking on Channel Two's Meet the Press program, Harel said that the IDF's one-sided abandonment of Gaza cleared the way for Hamas to take over the strip – and that now, Gaza was like a “mini-Iran.”
“I wasn't surprised when Hamas took over Gaza after the disengagement,” said Harel, who commanded the IDF units that forced Gush Katif's Jews out of their homes during the 2005 disengagement. “In the past I called Gaza Hamastan, but today it is no less than an Iran.” While Harel contends that Israel had no hope of remaining in Gaza - “There are about a million and a half Arabs in Gaza, and as an Israeli, it seems to me that we do not belong there,” Harel said in the interview – he added that he now believes that the one-sided disengagement from Gaza was a mistake. “Based on previous experience, such one-sided actions are usually a mistake,” he said.”
About a year ago, a letter written by Harel to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before the disengagement surfaced, with Harel questioning the wisdom of the move and predicting that Gaza would turn into “Hamastan,” an Islamist terror-state that would essentially be a base for terrorists to attack Israel. “It was clear which way Gaza was going,” Harel says of that letter.
Harel said he didn't think he would be willing to lead another disengagement. “The disengagement, the removal of Jews from 21 communities and the destruction of their towns, was very difficult for me personally. After the disengagement I felt like quitting the IDF.” Instead, Harel was appointed Deputy IDF Chief of Staff.
“It was clear that Gaza terror would continue,” Harel said. “There are issues here that are beyond the IDF's jurisdiction,” and with his retirement from the IDF imminent, Harel said that “when I take off my army uniform I will say what is on my mind.”