Disengagement Plan Formulated to Escape Sharon Corruption Probe

Two veteran journalists, based on talks with persons very close to the Prime Minister, say that the Disengagement Plan was hatched up simply to avoid Sharon's indictment in the Greek Island scandal.

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, | updated: 13:24

Journalists Raviv Drucker of Channel Ten TV and Ofer Shelach of Yediot Acharonot newspaper appeared on Nissim Mishal's Channel Two television program last night and summarized the results of their research. The main findings:

  • The evacuation plan was born because Sharon was sure that then-State Prosecutor Edna Arbel would indict him.
  • The decisions on the disengagement plan were made by marginalizing the army people, and without the participation of the ministers and the Cabinet.
  • Sharon proposed to one of the army's top generals that he be a "plant" and report to him on the goings-on in the General Staff.

Click here to view the 7-minute Channel Two TV segment - in Hebrew (or right click and select "Save Target As…" to download)

Drucker and Shelach said that Sharon's fear of State Prosecutor Arbel was a determining factor in making this plan. "If not for the interrogations, this historic decision would not have been made," they said. "This can be seen by the timetable of events in February 2004" - the appointment of Gen. Eiland to begin working on the plan, the appointment of Meni Mazuz as Attorney General, a summons to Sharon for police interrogation, the rumors that Arbel was about to indict him, and finally the meeting of the Farm Forum [Sharon, his sons and one or two others very close to the Prime Minister].

This Farm Forum "did not state it outright," Drucker said, "but it was in the air that something had to be done, that there had to be some major diplomatic process that would swallow up everything and would change the public agenda [away from the corruption headlines against Sharon] - and they came up with this plan."

In answer to a question, Shelach said, "The people who are closest to Sharon told us absolutely that if it wasn't for those police interrogations, this decision [to quit Gaza] would not have been made. This can be seen by the timetable of events..."

Drucker and Shelach further found that top Sharon-aide Dov Weisglass (pictured) led the way in preparing the disengagement plan, particularly in a private meeting with Condoleeza Rice in December 2003, and that those in the army and government who could have helped improve the plan for Israel were left out of the decision-making loop. "[National Security Advisor] Giora Eiland was in the midst of preparing a plan as to how Israel could get some benefit from its withdrawal," they said, "when suddenly he was presented with this new [unilateral] plan - and even now he objects to the plan [as it now stands]."

Narrator Nissim Mishal noted that the image of Prime Minister Sharon as depicted in the new book, entitled Boomerang, does not jibe with the common perception of him as strong and determined. "Instead," he said, "your book portrays him as one who is scared of police interrogations and led along by the Farm Forum and [top Sharon-aide] Duby Weisglass."

Raviv Drucker responded,
"We too were surprised by what we found. One government minister told us, 'This is the weakest Prime Minister I have seen, and I have seen many Prime Ministers.' The point is that Sharon is very strong at enforcing his decisions, but is weak at making decisions; he has no spine of his own today, and the best example of this is Duby Weisglass and the disengagement plan...

"Sharon wanted only to survive politically. Weisglass led the whole plan. In October 2003, before the plan had started, Weisglass asked staffers in the Prime Minister's Bureau for data on Gaza because he said he felt we had to withdraw from Gaza. Sharon did not yet agree then - but he would come around later. At that time, Weisglass also started spreading hints to other people that if Sharon didn't agree to this plan, he would end up leaving the political arena as an 'insignificant old man.' Weisglass also started pressuring [Defense Minister Sha'ul] Mofaz at this time. But more than anything - Weisglass felt that he had the right key to persuade Sharon."

Drucker's colleague Ofer Shelach continued:
"When Sharon arrived in office, he didn't know what to do; he was great in tactics, but had no strategy - not on the personal level, and not on the diplomatic-international level. He just doesn’t know what to do. Don't forget: after two years in office, he finds himself - the great terror-fighter Arik Sharon - with the highest amount of terror victims ever. And Weisglass - together with the Farm Forum, but mainly Weisglass - takes advantage of this to lead Sharon [by the nose]...

"In December '03, after Sharon's Herzliya speech introducing the disengagement concept but when this plan was still very vague - in fact, Sharon was still asking the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff what they thought about taking down just one or two communities - Weisglass goes to Washington all by himself - without his Military Secretary Moshe Kaplinsky or National Security Advisor Giora Eiland, who usually accompany him - and speaks to then-U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice privately. Very senior army officials told us that this was the trip in which Weisglass made the following offer: In the first stage, we would quit Gaza, in the second stage there would be a deep withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and in the third stage we'd even be willing to talk about the '67 lines.

"The important thing to note is that from that moment, there is no contact with those elements who were supposed to help Sharon decide about the plan, figure out what Israel would get in return, and help Israel get the best deal it could. And from that moment, the plan essentially rolls along on its own."

Shelach and Drucker revealed that Sharon sought out a top IDF general to be a mole in the IDF General Staff. The authors refused to divulge the name of the general whom Sharon asked to be his "plant." They said, "The general himself told us that Sharon asked him to agree to report back to him on the goings-on in the General Staff... All along, Sharon was unhappy with the army, and always tried to form direct channels of communication [in this way]..."

They said that many top officers, such as former Chief of Staff Mofaz, Intelligence Chief Ze'evi-Farkash, and others, were originally very much against the disengagement plan. "Several months before Sharon's adoption of the Disengagement Plan, there was a deliberation amidst the top brass of the IDF in the presence of the Chief of Staff. Many options were presented. One of the options was unilateral disengagement from Gaza. There was unanimous agreement regarding the idea: absolutely no. Mofaz said at the beginning, 'Whoever supports a unilateral retreat, apparently wasn't here for the last two and a half years,' and Farkash said it would be a catastrophe, and the head of IDF Research said it would be the worst thing... but after several months, when they saw that Sharon was so strongly in favor, they amazingly all fell in line and backed it..."

"We have a very biting claim," Drucker concluded. "In the past four and a half years, there were many opportunities to end or change the course of the intifada, but because of the way decisions were made, these chances were missed, and the bottom line - it's terrible to say - is that there were many people who were killed [by terrorists during the Oslo War] in vain."