As recent events in the Middle East have clearly shown us: territorial withdrawal is a recipe for disaster. Every time Western democracies withdraw their forces before ensuring long-term stability, vicious terrorists take over.
The United States withdrew from Iraq when the last US troops left the country on December 18, 2011. It was not long after that until serious violence started in Iraq. By June 2014, the ISIS, the most violent terrorist group in the world, had taken over large parts of Iraq, and the Iraqi government was left defenseless. On August 8, 2014, President Obama announced that he had authorized an air strike in Iraq. Even the most non-interventionist president in recent history was forced to intervene in Iraq to deal with the chaos that had ensued from the withdrawal of American troops.
Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, leaving the territory in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. However, it was not long until the Hamas terrorist organization took over in January 2006. Now, 9 years after the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Israel is back in Gaza, defending itself against rocket attacks from a vicious terrorist organization whose stated goal is to kill as many Israeli citizens as possible.
While some have theorized that modern warfare does not require us to hold on to territory, since technological advancements have made warfare less about territorial size and more about technological advantage, these events clearly prove the theory wrong.
Only by holding on to a territory can a country make sure that territory remains disarmed. Only by holding on to that territory can the country have enough boots on the ground to gather the necessary intelligence it needs to prevent attacks against it.
When a western power withdraws its army from a territory, it leaves a big vacuum behind. This vacuum then leads to chaos, which is the very environment in which radical Islamic terrorist groups thrive.
Following Oslo, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) left various areas of Judea and Samaria. The result? Only a few years later, the second intifada started with terrorists coming out of this area and murdering Israeli civilians. Only when the IDF returned to these very areas, in Operation Defensive Shield, did the terrorist attacks stop.
Today, we can clearly see the difference between areas where the IDF is in control and areas where the IDF has relinquished control. In Gaza, where the IDF is not present, rockets are being thrown at Israel. In Judea and Samaria, the situation is relatively stable.
Some might try to argue that the difference between the two regions is that one is controlled by Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority while the other is controlled by Hamas. However, very few people believe that Abbas could continue ruling in Judea and Samaria if the IDF was not there to ensure he was kept in charge. The true difference between both regions, therefore, is that the IDF has boots on the ground in Judea and Samaria, while it unilaterally withdrew its forces from Gaza.
In Israel’s case, there is an additional reason for holding on to our homeland. By relinquishing parts of our historical homeland, we are sending a message of weakness to the world and are encouraging our enemies to keep attacking us. Only a tired nation gives up on its land. By standing strong and defending our hold on our homeland, we give a strong message to our enemies: we are here to stay, and it is not worth it for you to try and change that fact. Territorial compromises motivate our enemies to continue fighting us.
Right before the start of Operation Defensive Edge, which started over a month ago in Gaza, various politicians called on Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria the way it withdrew from Gaza because of the diplomatic deadlock the talks with the Palestinian Authority had reached.
Let us hope that recent events have finally led supporters of unilateral withdrawal to reconsider their position. Let us hope that they will never call on Israel to leave its historical homeland in Judea and Samaria, leaving behind chaos that will only strengthen terrorist groups and bring more war and bloodshed.
MK Yariv Levin is Israel’s Coalition Chairman and the Chairman of the Subcommittee for Intelligence in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of Israel’s Parliament