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Israel regrets withdrawing from Gaza

July 14, 2020 at 9:35 pm

Settlers are buying goods in a supermarket in Neve Dekalim settlement in the Gaza strip, 10 August 2005. [NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images]

In 2005, the Israeli army began withdrawing from the Gaza Strip as part of the unilateral disengagement plan, and with this anniversary many Israeli circles criticised the plan, due to its major disadvantages.

Palestinians and Israelis commemorate each summer the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, amid Israeli fears that similar action will be taken in the occupied West Bank. This could be through the annexation plan that is being talked about, or through the American ‘deal of the century’.

A quick review of the most important Israeli articles published in recent days to commemorate this anniversary shows an unprecedented state of frustration, and some writers have not hesitated to say that the withdrawal is one of the most foolish steps that Israel has ever taken. This is because it did not achieve its specific goals, but rather resulted, according to those opposed to the move, in a number of consequences, the most important of which is the intensification of the security threats against Israel and international hostility towards Israel did not wane as a result of the measure.

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Opponents claim that the withdrawal resulted in a set of failures, despite the fact that those around Ariel Sharon, the prime minister at the time and the mastermind behind the plan, have always referred to Gaza as the “Hong Kong of the Middle East” in the post-withdrawal period. Today, a decade and a half later, Israel is facing a hostile state threatening its southern border.

From the political point of view, Israel’s goal of withdrawing from Gaza is to declare it is not responsible for what happens in it politically and legally and to deny the claims against it regarding its responsibility towards the Palestinians. Israel also wanted to lock Gaza’s doors and throw the key in the sea, and while this is a perfect wish, it is unrealistic. The international community still considers Israel responsible for Gaza and when Gaza suffers from hunger and power cuts, fingers are pointed as Israel.

It is worth noting that the Israelis who initiated the withdrawal assumed they would work to resume negotiations with the PA in order to achieve its responsibilities of combatting the armed attacks and implement the road map. However, this did not happen and instead Abu Mazen’s men fled Gaza in the face of Hamas. Today no one expects the Israelis to reach peace with the movement that participated in the legislative elections only a few months after the withdrawal, which constitutes a resounding Israeli political failure.

One of the reasons for the widespread Israeli support for the withdrawal from Gaza was the increase in repeated attacks against the Israeli army and settlers in the Gaza Strip, and the difficulty they found in dealing with what seemed to be endless Israeli bloodshed. Therefore, they promised to stop the bleeding that ached the hearts of many with this withdrawal.

Those who reject the withdrawal from Gaza claim that Hamas was allowed to form a real army, including an air, naval and ground force. They also claim that they were allowed to create an underground tunnel city and a missile system that can be controlled remotely that the very expensive Iron Dome could not neutralise, all of which Israel faces with failure and inability because it knows that the massive elimination of the armed infrastructure in Gaza will cost massive loss of Israeli life.

Fifteen years after the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel does not know what it wants from it, as evidenced by the continued debate over the years about whether the withdrawal contributed to preserving its security, or harming it, even though opponents of the withdrawal are convinced that it weakened it. The evacuation of the settlers unilaterally showed that Israel gave in to armed resistance, and this process may encourage further withdrawals under the same pressures.

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On the other hand, supporters of the withdrawal are convinced that they have strengthened Israel’s security, and instead of investing military forces in useless tasks, they are fighting today only for what is necessary for its security. However, this did not eliminate the assumption that the Israeli withdrawal was them fleeing from the Palestinians.

The withdrawal from Gaza, according to the Israelis who reject the decision, has portrayed Israel as giving away areas for free without getting anything in return.

Israel is not exempt from failure in the post-disengagement era, so the vow that any violation of its sovereignty from Gaza will result in a harsh reaction quickly turns into empty words. Even the capture of Gilad Shalit ended five years later in 2011 with a prisoner exchange deal. One Israel has backtracked on by re-arresting Palestinian detainees released under the terms of the deal.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.