It was the Friday morning before disengagement. My family and I had just spend two weeks in Israel as we boarded the El Al jet back home. Next to my marriage and my kids, this first of (G-d willing) many trips to Israel was the best thing ever to happen to me in my life. In Israel, especially in Jerusalem I felt like I belonged somewhere for the first time. It may sound corny but its true, in Jerusalem you can feel the presence of G-d. Not that you can’t feel the presence anywhere else, but in Jerusalem you didn’t have to work at it.
I also felt another presence in Israel. The uncomfortable foreboding of the coming withdrawal from Gaza. All over there were people wearing orange, or with orange ribbons flaring out from the windshields of their cars.
Disengagement was very confusing for me. I could see and understand both sides. On one hand Israel was giving back territory that it had won in a war without getting any concessions from the other side. There were reports that Hamas would turn Gaza into a launching pad for attacks on Israel. To be honest, it also seemed that there were more Jews from outside Israel protesting disengagement than Israeli Jews.
I asked our wonderful guide in Israel, Yossi, what he thought of the disengagement. He answered that he was for it, not because it would bring any sort of peace, because it wouldn’t, but because he was afraid that the personality of the Israeli citizenry would change negatively if they remained as occupiers.
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For once in my life, Mr. Black or white couldn’t make up his mind which side he should take, so I remained firmly on the fence during the first days of disengagement.
Soon after it became apparent that the fears that Gaza would become a staging zone for terrorism were true. There was also a revelation that the Israeli government would not be giving timely assistance to the people who were forced to leave their homes and jobs in Gaza.
Leaving Gaza in August of 2005 made a hero out of Hamas, the same way leaving Lebanon made a hero out of Hezbollah and caused needless pain and suffering to Israeli and Palestinian peoples. It was a huge mistake. And its been a long time since I sat on the fence of disengagement—not only was it wrong not to take a stand, in the end the fence really hurts your butt.
Of course hindsight is always 20/20 but it is important that we study what has resulted from the Gaza disengagement so we can learn from it. Today’s Frontpage.com does just that in this piece by P. David Hornik called Harsh truths of the Disengagement.
Harsh Truths of the Disengagement
By P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 7, 2007
Not long ago a bitter debate raged over Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. The more tender-minded proponents argued that once the hated “Israeli occupation” had been removed, Gazans would desist from anti-Israeli violence and turn to peaceful tasks of state-building. The more tough-minded proponents argued that, while the terror against Israel would continue, Israel would now have legitimacy in the world’s eyes to deal with it.
Whoever said the attacks would continue was right. Last March 8 the head of IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant, said that since the disengagement “2,053 Kassams have been launched at Israel, 296 explosive charges have been detonated, 143 attacks were carried out against tanks that were outside the security fence—not inside Gaza—and there were 260 incidents of gunfire at IDF forces outside the fence.”
It kept going this weekend. On Friday, three Qassams were fired at open fields in the Negev desert beside Gaza; on Saturday, two Qassams were fired at the town of Sderot, one hitting a house and destroying its roof while its inhabitants were not at home; on Sunday, four more Qassams were fired at the Negev and a fifth at Sderot that injured two people at a gas station, one with shrapnel wounds all over his body. Many of the rockets that land in open spaces are not meant to hit solid targets and instead constitute practice firings, the Gaza terrorists knowing they can leisurely experiment and hone their craft since the Israeli army is not likely to respond.
Indeed, since Israel signed a ceasefire with the Palestinian Authority last November 26, a nightmare-situation has emerged that not even opponents of the disengagement anticipated. Opponents knew that the “legitimacy” argument was foolish because structural factors of Arab oil power combined with ideological Palestinianism, anti-Israelism, anti-Semitism, anti-Westernism, and antimilitarism ensured that the world, notwithstanding the supposed magnanimity of the disengagement, would continue reacting to violent flare-ups with sympathy for the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel whatever the actual facts and justice of the case.
Opponents of the withdrawal, though, while expecting that Israel would have great difficulty both operationally and diplomatically in acting against Gaza terror after the pullback, did not foresee a situation in which Israel would just give up and let Sderot and the surrounding area become a helpless shooting gallery. But that is what has happened since the November 26 “ceasefire,” since which time hundreds of Qassams and mortars have been fired with almost no military response by Israel. (For a sense of what this means in terms of the daily suffering of the residents of Sderot, see videos on this page.)
Not surprisingly, this period has also witnessed ongoing, massive anti-Israeli military buildups not only in Gaza itself but in Lebanon and Syria as well, as Israel’s deterrence—under the combined impact of its helplessness against short-range Hezbollah rockets last summer and its continuing helplessness against Gaza rockets—has sunk to an existentially dangerous nadir.
It is instructive to look at events that led up to Israel’s November 26 “ceasefire”-surrender and decision to abandon Sderot and the nearby communities to their fate. Last June 10, a shell allegedly misfired by Israel (it later turned out that it was probably a Hamas mine) killed seven members of a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach. Instead of showing understanding for Israel’s difficult confrontation with ongoing Gaza terror, and without even waiting for an investigation, Western actors like the UK Foreign Office, the French Foreign Ministry, the U.S. State Department, and the UN secretary-general rushed to condemn Israel for the supposed misdeed.
Then last November 8, during Israel’s last attempt to date at fighting the Gaza terror, actual misfired Israeli shells struck a residential area and killed nineteen Palestinian civilians. It did not matter that Israel was again trying to put a stop to the constant post-disengagement terror against its population; that the Israeli shells were fired to forestall an imminent rocket attack from Gaza on the Israeli city of Ashkelon; and that, after all, no one is immune to mistakes in wartime: condemnation came fast and furious. Italian foreign minister Massimo D’Alema called it a “massacre,” EU external relations chief Benita Ferrero-Waldner called it “profoundly shocking,” PA president Mahmoud Abbas called it a “horrible massacre,” and so on. The event undoubtedly played a role in the weak Olmert government’s decision two and a half weeks later to call off the fighting altogether.
Enough time has passed, then, since Israel completed the disengagement in September 2005 to assess that it has been an unmitigated disaster of an escalating terror buildup and terror offensive from Gaza met by ineffective Israeli responses dwindling to no response at all, along with the wholesale destruction of the settlements and the ongoing plight of their former residents. Many proponents were lulled by the “occupation” and “demographic” buzzwords at a time when Gaza’s Palestinian population was actually running its own affairs and Israel’s military presence was a minimal but indispensable check on jihadist ambitions.
Handing a territorial base to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah et al. made no more sense than it would to award, gratis, a launching pad to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other group hell-bent on destruction.