2005 was a year of turmoil for Israel. The Jewish state took control of the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day-War, In the following decades, a relatively small number of Jews moved into the enclave, reaching 8,000 by 2005, in a population of well over one million. As the Oslo Peace Accords collapsed in the early 2000s, Israeli authorities were confronted with political stalemate and the future of Gaza.
The plan to leave Gaza unilaterally was introduced by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003. Sharon, who had previously been in favor of settling Jews in the disputed territories, had recently changed his mind.
For Sharon it was a practical move. Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis were an ongoing concern. Removing the Jewish population and military presence from Gaza was considered a painful but important strategy for long term cost, security, and peace. The costs to keep Gaza secure and the small Jewish enclave safe were enormous. There were also hopes that despite no peace agreement, leaving the Palestinians to self govern Gaza might result in future peace and prosperity between the two nations.
There was much opposition to the plan. With no peace talks taking place, withdrawal was seen as a capitulation to terrorism. For the Jewish residents in Gaza and their supporters, this was their home, as well as part of the ancient Jewish homeland.
The Knesset approved the Gaza Disengagement plan and a date was set for the summer of 2005. It would be a massive operation. There were 21 Jewish settlements that had to be evacuated, along with a number of military posts and infrastructure.
Large demonstrations against Disengagement took place throughout the summer of 2005 in Israel. Supporters of the Jewish settlers poured into Gaza to offer support and civil disobedience. Some feared the operation would tear Israeli society apart, resulting in civil war.
In the end, Disengagement occurred quickly and efficiently. Within a few weeks of starting, all Jews had been moved out of Gaza. Most left reluctantly. Some had to be physically carried out. By September, the IDF had also pulled out their forces, leaving Gaza in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.
Many buildings were abandoned, including homes, synagogues, and greenhouses. Much of it was burned down after Disengagement. The Jewish residents in Gaza were relocated into Israel and given some compensation for their losses. However, many found it difficult to find permanent employment and housing.
A few months after Disengagement, the Islamist group Hamas won legislative elections in Gaza. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. Hamas operatives kidnapped an Israeli soldier patrolling along the Gaza border. Fighting broke out between Gaza and Israel in the first of many major skirmishes. A brief civil war ensued and Hamas seized complete control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. No further elections have been held since. The prospects for a peaceful resolution to the conflict remain remote.