Mark L. Levinson
Like Israel itself, still ticking since 1948

Disengagement Plus Ten: The Conference

If we award our sworn enemies the wherewithal to lead a better, peaceful life, then their own self-interest will bring them around.  That seems to be part of the rationale for the nuclear deal with Iran today, as ten years ago it was for the Disengagement, Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

At Bar-Ilan University on July 22nd, I attended a series of retrospective lectures sponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and called “Gaza Disengagement, Ten Years Later.”  Following are my notes, with no intentional editorializing, but with no official approval and with a degree of accuracy that is only human.

Prior registration was not required and, at least to begin with, the hall was packed to the point of standing room only. Something in the vicinity of 250 people, by my unprofessional estimate. A bare handful were under 40, and I’m not sure they weren’t all students hired as ushers and guards. Not very many of the audience were women. Of the men, a majority were bareheaded. The conference was in Hebrew, with free headphones for a simultaneous translation, but looking hard I could find only four or five people taking advantage of the headphones. There may have been as many again whom I didn’t see.

The conference started on time, and Maj. Gen. (res) Uzi Dayan, President of the Security Council for Israel, opened by remarking that because such a large question mark hangs over the topic, it was hard to decide even what word to use in the conference’s title. Disengagement?  Expulsion?  Uprooting?  Sacrifice?  As far as he was concerned, it was a national disaster. It was originally scheduled for the Ninth of Av, already a day of mourning with multiple causes, and although it was intentionally postponed for that reason, it didn’t budge far.

Dayan was followed by Sivan Har-Shefi, who read some extracts from a book of poetry about Gush Katif, the Jewish settlement bloc in Gaza that, along with a few other scattered communities, was ended by the Disengagement. Later on, Tal Neumann read relevant passages from a diary. [I’m not sure of the spelling of those names.] Not only was the conference accompanied by literary readings, it was also accompanied by paintings and photos brought in from the Gush Katif Museum.

From a painting by Dina Zeifer, lent by the Gush Katif Museum for public display at the conference
From a painting by Dina Zeifer, lent by the Gush Katif Museum for public display at the conference

The next speaker was Dov Weissglas, who served as Bureau Chief for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  As he was introduced, the audience was asked to remain polite despite what would likely be widespread disagreement with the speaker (and it pretty much did). As for me, below, as I paraphrase Weissglas and those who followed him at the podium, I refrain — for the sake of brevity — from assiduously interjecting “in his opinion” or “he says” or “according to him.”  It is to be understood that following each speaker’s name, the text represents that speaker’s point of view as I understood it, rather than necessarily my own. Comments of my own are in square brackets.

Dov Weissglas:  The Political Logic

Weissglas handled contacts with the Palestinian Authority, the USA, and others with regard to the Disengagement.

For whoever thinks we’re able to remain indefinitely in the occupied territories, the Disengagement is a bad precedent. But for whoever believes a Palestinian state is inevitable, the Disengagement merely accomplished promptly what would happen anyway. Sharon, who is quoted as remarking that “what you see from here” (the Prime Minister’s office) “is not what you see from elsewhere,” once boasted that there isn’t a mezuzah in the territories that he didn’t nail up, but as Prime Minister, he said that there is no one in the world who sympathizes with our claim on the territories, not among the non-Jews and not among the Jews.

World opinion was an obstacle to Sharon’s original settlement plans.  What do you do when you hit an obstacle? Suppose you’re out on maneuvers and suddenly there’s a wadi in front of you that no one told you about. It wasn’t on the maps, it didn’t show up on the aerial photos, but there it is. What do you do? Just sit there? Get mad about the bad advance work? You have to deal with the situation. We can’t be Sparta or North Korea against the whole world, with everyone refusing to talk to us, and expect to get by on American support. But if we act first, to set the borders with attention to our own interests, we’ll be better off than if other countries drag us into an arrangement against our will. As the saying goes, the best is the enemy of the good; and an ideal arrangement that we can’t get shouldn’t stand in the way of a reasonable arrangement that we can.

Obviously our long-term interest was to withdraw. No one expected us to stay in the long term. We were suffering under the Second Intifada and we had no defense against it. If a 29-year-old female Arab lawyer falls into dishonor among her family, and in order to restore her honor and bring in a lot of money she agrees to a suicide mission, what’s our defense? Normally the suicide bombers receive their bomb belts just before the attack, but in this case, which was a real one, the woman came to a checkpoint wearing the belt. She called herself a tourist, she looked respectable, and so they let her through. She came to a second checkpoint, it was understaffed, and after making her wait a while, the soldiers took pity on her and waved her through without examination. You can punish the soldiers, but the problem is still there.

For Arafat, violence was the preferred option. The USA turned on him and he was replaced by Abu Mazen, who had been in exile as an opponent of Arafat’s policies. The American-backed Road Map was produced and terror declined, but then there was a resurgence of Hamas in 2003 and Arafat regained influence. We left Gaza unilaterally because we didn’t want to deal with Arafat but we wanted to shake off the stigma of occupation. [Although Arafat died before the Disengagement, the decision was made while he was alive.] In 2005, with Abu Mazen in power, we recommenced coordination regarding what would be destroyed, what would be left in place, etc.

We erected the security fence in a position that left us 11% of the West Bank. Sharon said, “There was a dream, and the dream failed.” He’d called for a million settlers, and he got only a quarter million. A hundred fifty thousand could remain in place, unless we keep up the provocation which will mean eventually losing everything.

In June 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza. Could we have prevented that if our settlers were in Gush Katif? Would the army have gone in to topple Hamas? No, we weren’t about to prevent Hamas from seizing control of Gaza. If our settlers had still been there at the time, what then?

Gershon Hacohen:  Outlines of the Operational Logic

Gershon Hacohen was commander of an army division that evacuated Gush Katif settlements. He disputes the title, sometimes attributed to him, of the commander of the Disengagement.

Hacohen says he can easily understand taking the attitude that a Russian might take: “Me, give up territory? Never!” The expulsion could have turned violent. A month was allotted for getting it over with, although in the end it took only five days. No one died. Much credit goes to the settlers. Cohen and his people were intent that the settlers not slip into “desperation mode” — the crisis behavior of, for example, a mother adrift in a flood clinging to a plank and a baby, losing her strength, and letting the baby go. To keep the settlers out of desperation mode, the Disengagement was portrayed as an act of Zionism — not a retreat, but a detour. Preserving the idea on which Gush Katif was based, while complying with Sharon’s orders. Not that anyone announced that this was Zionism in action; it was a Spiderman thing. Spiderman saves a woman, she asks what his name is, and he says “I’m defined by what I do.”  [I couldn’t find the exact quotation.]

It would have been possible to first do what we could, and then declare that we’d accomplished what we intended — the Soviet style of reporting on missions. But we defined our aim in advance, and we were flexible between the Soviet-style extreme of being satisfied regardless of results and the other extreme of allowing no deviation from plan. We executed Operation Yad Achim to see how much strength we should deploy. In Operation Yad Achim, we went through the settlements offering the settlers help in packing. We didn’t want our first approach to the settlers to be on eviction day. We wanted some people-to-people contact first. If someone was willing to be helped, fine. If not, we went on to the next house.

But if anyone thinks that a similarly smooth eviction can take place in other territories, it’s a mistake. There were factors in Gush Katif that will not be repeated. Then, the settlers embraced the idea that there will always be another challenge ahead. Now, we are suffering from the continuing sin of the Hebrew spies who overestimated the might of the Canaanites, and we need to get past that.

Israel Maimon:  Insights from the Prime Minister’s Office

Israel Maimon was cabinet secretary during the Disengagement. He says that we’re seeing attempts to rewrite the history of Gaza. We had only 8000 settlers in Gaza, and it was not a tranquil place while we were there. Sharon declared, “I failed.” Israelis were willing to move to the West Bank, but almost nobody was willing to move to Gaza; the settlements did not thrive. And the Disengagement was not what enabled Hamas to arm itself; the arms and the radicalization would have come anyway.

Disengagement had the support of the public, by way of the Knesset and government.

Sharon brought with him the military philosophy that it is better to be the one initiating moves than the one reacting to them. But he refused ever to meet with Arafat.

[At around this point there were some interruptions from the audience.  Efraim Inbar, who was chairing the session, wanted to restore order but Maimon said there’s nothing wrong with a little give and take. Predictably, however, the audience would become more restless as the hours passed.]

The separation fence was a unilateral initiative too, and everyone knew that although it was subject to rerouting it was basically a way of unilaterally setting the border.

At the time, Weissglas would ask repeatedly whether anyone conceived of a diplomatic solution that would leave the settlements in place; no one believed such a thing would happen. Even the government’s official guidelines conceived of a two-state solution.

Some say Sharon initiated the Disengagement in order to escape indictment of himself and his family on various corruption charges. How can anyone look at what happened to his sons and say the Sharons escaped anything? Anyway, as early as 2001, Sharon told Shimon Peres he was ready to make concessions in return for an agreement with the Palestinian Authority; and he told Amram Mitzna the same thing, although the government guidelines didn’t reflect it.

We have to take into account the fact that we are not welcome in this neighborhood.

Anat Roth:  Institutional Mobilization and Potential Violence During the Disengagement

Anat Roth was an advisor to Ehud Barak and a researcher for the Israel Democracy Institute. By institutional mobilization in the title of her talk, she meant primarily the enlistment of the press on the side of the government, and she projected some illustrative headlines exaggerating the radicalism of the right wing.

She also presented lists — more than I could copy down — of factors that aggravate public resentment and factors that can promote violence.

Among the aggravating factors: The way the Disengagement was approved, involving some unsavory political manipulations and breaking faith with the party; the lack of reciprocity; the harm to the country’s geographical integrity; the treatment of the evacuees, who could not be sure whether the intent was to move them elsewhere as a community or to give them money and disperse them; and the repression of dissent — all leading to a loss of trust, with a feeling of persecution, fear, anger, and humiliation. There were also incidents of police brutality (Roth cites as an example) serving as intimidation.

The likelihood of violence grows with frustration. It grows as examples of violence, inspiring emulation, increase. And it grew as a feeling developed that the settlers were being persecuted and delegitimized, that social justice was not being served, that violence works. There was a sense that authority is absent, that violence is forgiven, that the media are hostile, and that the establishment itself is violent.

The Palestinian Authority was against the Disengagement, knowing that it would strengthen Hamas and make dialogue seem futile.


Someone in the audience (Oded Tira, if I’m not mistaken) protested Dov Weissglas’ characterization of the second intifada as something there could be no defense against. “If we have no answer to terror, then terror will determine our borders.” And what was the logic for abandoning the Philadelphi buffer zone, and for allowing Hamas to run in the Palestinian Authority elections?

In his reply, Weissglas recalled that in 2004 the idea of allowing Hamas to run in elections was proposed. Israel didn’t like it, but the USA pushed it through anyway because they believed that Hamas would win 25% or 30% of the vote and would be obliged to abandon terror in favor of politics. Big mistake — although maybe Hamas would have assumed power anyway.

Another remark from the audience dismissed Maimon’s idea that the Disengagement had done Sharon no good in his fight against corruption charges. His sons did get tarred, but Sharon was left alone.

If that’s how a prime minister can get left alone, Maimon countered, then why was Ehud Olmert removed from office and sent to prison? He was also eager to make territorial concessions. (But it’s not the same, many in the audience grumbled.)

Gershon Hacohen:  What is Home? (1)

Returning to the podium to introduce a session on how Jews see the concept of home, Gershon Hacohen referred to a book by Yuri Slezkine called The Jewish Century, which says that modernism, in the twentieth century, meant severing one’s attachment to the land in order to find a home in the intellectual urban environment where mobility is much more casual. To move from Ramat Aviv to Shikun Lamed — from one Tel Aviv neighborhood to another — is nothing like moving away from land that you farmed and that your forebears farmed before you. There’s a story about a man living on the side of Mount Etna, an active volcano, who is asked why he remains in such a place. He answers, “What am I, Jewish?” The Jews are seen as the model of the modernist detachment of identity from geography.

Anita Tucker:  What is Home? (2)

Anita Tucker lived through the Disengagement as a settler. When she arrived, Arab community leaders came to the barren site and gave her the traditional welcome of bread and salt, but they warned her that no one had been able to grow anything on the land and no one ever would.  The land was cursed, they said.

The objective of the Disengagement had nothing to do with defense; the objective was to uproot, from among Israeli values, the values of truth, justice, mercy, and love of the land. She recalls that the authorities wanted to disperse and demoralize the evacuated settlers by dropping them off a few at a time in isolated groups but the settlers insisted on all being taken to the Western Wall.

An American philanthropist approached her and volunteered to provide $20,000 for a PR campaign on the settlers’ behalf. She went to a PR agency but they refused to take her money. “There’s no point in our taking twenty thousand dollars,” they said. “The government has twenty agencies spending twenty thousand dollars apiece to spread the opposite story.”

But in the end we won, because no one succeeded in tearing us away from our values.

Yaakov Medan:  What is Home? (3)

Yaakov Medan fought in the artillery corps in the Yom Kippur War and later became the head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva. It was he who advised the authorities that if in Gaza they want to evacuate a religious girls’ school, then they’d better assemble a detachment of girl soldiers to do it. That’s democracy; democracy is more than just making decisions by a show of hands. It also involves keeping the nation together. Without unity, there’s no playing the game by the rules.

The army is what unifies the country today, so care must be taken not to factionalize the army.

As for the concept of home, it is four things.

  1. It is the land that we’ve caused to blossom, and as Sharon said, “What happens to Netzarim [a Jewish settlement in Gaza] happens to Tel Aviv.” In exile, the Jewish people was a crippled people in that it had no land. Here, we re-established a connection with the land. The Gaza settlements accounted for 20% of Israel’s agricultural exports.
  2. It is a community. There are people who finished three cycles of Talmud learning together in Gaza, meeting together early each morning to study a page a day. That adds up to 22 years of early morning sessions. Gush Katif received many people who had previously been accustomed to living on welfare, and in Gaza they learned to apply themselves to work.
  3. It is a connection with history. As long ago as 1938, the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom was established in Gaza. It became the richest community in the Strip, benefiting Arabs as well, but it fell in the War of Independence. Its former residents founded the moshav, Bnei Darom; they refrained from using exactly the same name because, like the former residents of Gush Etzion who founded Nir Etzion, they were confident that some day they’d return.
  4. It is family, and the Disengagement dealt a blow to families. There were youngsters who couldn’t handle what was happening, and they abandoned the National Religious Movement, threw away their skullcaps. Family ties loosened. Husbands, without their employment, became shadows of themselves. But despite it all, for the most part the families survived. In fact, while the land, the community, and the connection with history cannot sustain us as before, the family still does.

Our home needs repairs figuratively, and literally speaking the homes that were supposed to be prepared for the evacuees did not do the job.  The contracts went to companies with Likud connections, and they delivered a bad product. Meanwhile there were court cases against the new neighborhoods — ostensibly for the sake of nature preservation, although the same people never bring the Bedouin to court for harming nature. It appears that someone was out to harass the Gaza settlers, to teach them a lesson.  But we refused to return to the days of the Altalena and the threat of civil war.

A.B. Yehoshua:  What is Home? (4)

A.B. Yehoshua, the prominent novelist, says that there is a problem with the Jewish attitude to the homeland and there is a different problem with the Arab attitude.

The homeland is the basis for the individual’s identity. Religion, customs, leadership may change — think of Egypt for example — but the homeland is still the basis for identity. The Jewish people’s identity, however, goes back to Genesis 12, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee,” so the usual notion of homeland is overturned. The commitment is to bring the people to a place where the laws will differ.

A.B. Yehoshua, the novelist
A.B. Yehoshua, the novelist

Despite the commitment to a new homeland, Abraham went down to Egypt. So did Jacob. They regressed away from the new homeland, and it was on the way back to it, while on the move through the desert, that the Jewish nation was formed. It was explained to us that God is a greater factor than the homeland. If we obey God’s laws, we will dwell comfortably in the homeland; if not, we will be exiled. The homeland has always been with the Jews since then, throughout the centuries, but in the mind. A virtual homeland. The world was our hotel chain; the homeland was the Land of Israel, but for the time being we were elsewhere. And we were good guests at the hotels, but whenever the conditions deteriorated, we moved to another hotel.

It’s difficult for Jews to understand how other people think of their own homelands. And other people in turn consider that the Jews’ behavior is anti-identity.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are faulty in their own conception of the homeland. During the War of Independence, there were Arabs coming from Nablus to fight in Jaffa and then going back to Nablus to sleep. For them, the notion of the homestead replaces the notion of the homeland.

You can’t be a refugee in your own homeland, although you can be an evictee. The Palestinians are in their homeland — some call themselves refugees less than ten miles from where they used to live — but they want the old homestead, even if it’s inside the Jewish state now.

From the 350 square kilometers that are Gaza, we took 50. We took the poor man’s lamb, to use the biblical analogy (2 Samuel 12), and that’s what caused the terrible conflict.

Our experience with the Disengagement means there will be no evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria. [Here many in the audience laughed and applauded, knowing that Yehoshua was expressing regret for the very prospect they favored.] Instead, there will be a binational state. At a time when other states are splitting up ethnically, with even Scotland discussing independence, the Jews as usual find themselves in opposition to history. We’re planting Jews in the middle of another nation that is not about to move.


How can we deal with the Arabs’ hostility and with global anti-Semitism?

Yehoshua: Looking around, we see peace with the Arabs. With Egypt, with Jordan, with the Palestinian Authority. Historically, it’s the Christians who keep slaughtering us. As for global anti-Semitism, we can’t complain too much while the USA is generously aiding Israel.

Why are we so harsh on one another while always making allowances for the enemy?

Medan: We aren’t so harsh on one another. That’s just fringe behavior. The Disengagement was not such a harsh matter; more people lost their homes in Shanghai to make room for the Olympic Games.

Dayan: Sharon was not temperamentally in favor of unilateral moves like the Disengagement. I was head of his National Security Council, and I still don’t understand why he did it. He didn’t even want the unilateral security fence. He was always inclined toward attack rather than defense. But in a single month, there were 140 terror fatalities, so regarding the fence he had no choice.

Yossi Kuperwasser:  The Arab Arena

Yossi Kuperwasser is a former director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. He says that during the Disengagement no particular thought was given to what the Arabs’ reaction might be except in the immediate term — the concern being that they shouldn’t mount terror attacks during the Disengagement.  In the long term, obviously the Arabs’ goal is to remove the Jews from the Land of Israel, and from their point of view if we want to remove ourselves from Gaza, why not. To the Arabs, it’s a sign that we lack backbone.

As the Disengagement encouraged thoughts of a renewed campaign against Israel, Hamas seized control of Gaza and determined to mount a kidnapping, Lebanon-style (as eventually it did, taking Gilad Shalit).

There was also the attitude that the Jews were trying to usurp the Palestinians’ position as victim by exploiting the Disengagement, and the Arabs responded by making the argument that Gaza is still occupied (an argument that the world accepts).

Fatah believed it perceived an even more sophisticated Jewish plot — to give the Palestinian Authority administrative responsibility over a population and demonstrate, by its failure, that it was not only incompetent to handle Gaza but also unfit to receive Judea and Samaria. Thus Fatah attached importance to proving itself fit by attempting to prevent Hamas from running wild in Gaza — even though fighting Hamas there was hopeless and Abbas knew it.

Hamas took over Gaza although Gaza isn’t what the Hamas people want; what they want is the places their families left behind. They want Acre, Haifa, and Jaffa. If the PLO is handed control of Judea and Samaria, Hamas won’t let it rule there five minutes longer than in Gaza.  The difference between the two areas today is that the Israeli army returned into Area A of the West Bank to clean it up but never returned to Gaza.

It’s difficult to enlist international support by making concessions. The collapse of the support promised in the so-called “Bush letter” from America is an example of how such deals turn out. And in Iran too, no one should expect that concessions will turn the enemy more benign.

According to a recent poll by the Katz Institute, from among those who have an opinion 51% support returning to Gush Katif for renewed settlement. The percentage represents a dramatic change from ten years ago.

Asked whether they would favor dismantling some Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria in certain circumstances, 53% said yes.

In response to Kuperwasser, fellow speaker Yaacov Amidror remarked that surveys have no importance. The results are influenced by all kinds of factors and are sometimes wrong. Decisions should be made on the basis of what the right thing to do is, not on the basis of surveys.

More than 60% of respondents report that they were opposed to the Disengagement at the time. They can’t all be telling the truth. But sometimes the people who answer the surveys are hiding the truth not only from the pollsters but also from themselves.

Efraim Inbar, Director of the BESA Center: The Advantages of the Disengagement from Gaza

Some things are visible only in retrospect (“…and thou shalt see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” — Exodus 33.23). It may still be too early for evaluations, but in what ways has the Disengagement apparently worked out favorably?

Gaza has separated from the West Bank. Assuming that there is no peace agreement forthcoming, it is better to have the enemy split than unified. And it can be understood that as long as the Palestinian Authority does not enjoy a monopoly on the use of force, it is not in a position to run a state. That the two-state solution is not practical has become obvious, and thus for example the proposal at the Annapolis meetings was for a shelf agreement, something to dust off in the indefinite future when and if conditions change.

The shared interests of Israel and Egypt appear more obvious, and for a while we enjoyed some extra good will in Washington. We are the country that is able to stand up and oppose the Muslim campaign for dominance.

Remember, we are a small nation, and we’ve lost our state twice in our history because we miscalculated. We can’t do whatever we choose; we live under limitations.

The Disengagement relieved us of responsibility for a million Arabs. We are still helping them, because we don’t want hungry neighbors, but we aren’t on site. When we were, there were problems with our position as a governing force and with the demography.

The Disengagement showed a strengthening of national consensus.  Even the Left was in agreement that there was no point trying to negotiate at that point with the Arab side. Maintaining a consensus in Israel is important; we can’t afford to see disputes mushrooming to affect the smooth continuation of universal military service, for example. The Disengagement defeated a messianic vision and it can serve as a reminder that the people of Israel, and the Torah of Israel, take precedence over the Land of Israel.

Yaacov Amidror, former National Security Advisor: The Connection Between the Disengagement Initiative and Reality

We’ve been through the breaking of eggs, it’s nice that there’s a Gush Katif Museum, but there’s no restoring the present omelet to its former condition. Unless we’re forced to.

We undertook this step with our eyes closed. I for one did ask questions, and later the US Ambassador (Dan Kurtzer) said to me, “You didn’t get any answers, did you?” I didn’t. Sharon himself had previously warned of missiles reaching Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. But if Sharon hadn’t withstood those opposing the Disengagement, the country would have fallen apart. Citizens of a country can’t all decide separately for themselves.

If it were up to me and if it weren’t for Hamas, I’d say let’s leave our Arab neighbors alone to do whatever they want. But any Palestinian state will evidently belong to Hamas if not to ISIS. That’s a lesson to the world, not only to us, from the Disengagement. And having served as military secretary, I can attest that speaking with Abu Mazen gets us nowhere. On the other hand, there’s the demographic problem, which has no intelligent solution. Jordan doesn’t want to solve it for us because Jordan doesn’t want the Palestinian Arabs as citizens. So assuming we don’t want a binational state, and assuming we don’t want ISIS, what’s to be done in the near term? What’s to be done until the Arabs understand they’re not going to win?

If we do come up with an idea, then it must be backed by the people, not like Oslo and not like the Disengagement. A government decision should be backed by a plebiscite. The media didn’t understand that by Teflon coating Sharon in order to smooth the way to Disengagement, they were laying the foundation for future corruption. Leaders should be obliged to explain their decisions. If not, we find ourselves in a situation like today’s where people are stepping forward as self-appointed proxies with explanations for what the late prime minister himself never did explain.

This being a religious-oriented university, I close with a talmudic reminder. In setting the autumn date when Jews begin to pray for rain, on the one hand the rabbis took into special consideration that pilgrims should not have to suffer bad travel conditions while returning overseas after the Sukkot holiday. On the other hand, they did not ignore the mass of Jews who lived in Israel and needed the rain promptly. Similarly, the government should always consider the small groups of citizens, with their particular needs, while not surrendering the interests of the general public.


Are there situations where soldiers should disobey orders?

Amidror: Certainly. There are situations where according to the army’s own rules, an order must be disobeyed because it is patently improper.  However, the order to enforce the Disengagement was not illegal, it was merely the wrong decision.

We are in the territories for two reasons: one is history and ideology, the other is defense and demography. Our history as a people is rooted in Judea and Samaria; there’s no denying that, so I haven’t bothered giving it mention. But if it weren’t for the matter of defense and demography, I’d say why not withdraw anyway. The Palestinian Authority isn’t arresting terrorists as it should. When someone is arrested, 95% of the time it’s our forces arresting them and the other 5% of the time the arrestee is someone who’s a threat to Fatah.

Kooperman: The demographic doomsday is not close. There are creative solutions for the demographic problem. In the meantime, the Arabs in the territories have a certain amount of self-rule. And nobody told them they can’t have elections.

The Disengagement has been presented as a battle against right-wing zealots. But aren’t there also left-wing zealots?

Inbar: Sure. There are some on both sides, but the public is mainly pragmatic.

Uzi Dayan

In summation, the Disengagement was a baffling thing to do, not good for us at all. It contributed nothing to human rights, and it didn’t help our standing in the world. What remains for us is to make sure we keep defensible borders — particularly in the Jordan Valley, which Israel must populate.

About the Author
Mark L. Levinson, in Israel since 1970, has worked as a writer for hi-tech companies and, now primarily, as a Hebrew-to-English translator.
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