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Disengagement 2005 – The Correct Decision

18 October 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman and Elliot Chodoff

By the end of this summer many in Israel, and possibly even a majority have declared last summer’s Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria (northern West Bank) to be a mistake. The central argument presented is that the unilateral withdrawal encouraged terrorism, in particular of the world Jihadist type as represented by the Hamas. Another point presents then PM Sharon as someone willing to evacuate Jews as a way of avoiding a criminal investigation into alleged fraudulent election funding for his 1999 Likud chairmanship campaign.

But before delving into these issues a few historical reminders are in order. The great Revisionist leader, Zev Jabotinsky was in favor of not reclaiming Tel Hai, Metulla and Kfar Giladi in 1920 after the area was overrun by Beduin causing serious Jewish casualties at Tel Hai, including the death of the great Zionist hero Yosef Trumpeldor. He was overruled by David Ben Gurion and Menachem Ussishkin who sent pioneers to resettle the Galilee Panhandle. Jabotinsky did not want to aggravate relations with the British since the northern border between the Jewish National Home of the Palestine Mandate and the French Lebanese Mandate had not yet been decided. He considered the alliance with the British more important than settlement in this specific region.

Ben Gurion ordered the withdrawal from Bet Ha’arava in 1948 when he realized the kibbutz was totally indefensible with no chance of survival against the Jordanians. In 1951 after losing several bloody battles in the El Hama region (Hamat Gader) at the very southern tip of the Golan Heights, BG once again ordered the army to abandon its posts in the face of never ending Syrian attacks originating on high ground while Israeli forces were sitting ducks deep in the Yarmukh River valley.

The right wing Likud prime minister and staunch Revisionist Menachem Begin evacuated all of the Sinai Peninsula for peace with Egypt from 1979 – 82. The Labor Party had built the settlements which housed 6,000 residents who now had to be reabsorbed into the state. Furthermore, Begin offered to give Gaza back to Egypt, meaning a further evacuation of Jews, but Egyptian Pres. Sadat refused the offer and sent him to deal with the Palestinians.

But as for those who condemn the “secularists” for what they did let us recall that BG and Begin had members of the National Religious Party in their governments. We have a stark precedent for this as we can go back to the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) in the First Book of Kings, Chapter 9, Verses 10 – 14 and read where King Solomon handed over twenty cities in the Land of Kabul (central western Galilee) to King Hiram of Tyre as payment for his help in building and decorating the First Temple in Jerusalem. Both EC and YN live in this region.

The point of all the above is that lands are ceded by the powers to be among the Jewish People in the Land of Israel if it be deemed worthwhile or necessary whether the reason be deemed military, political, diplomatic or religious. Those who have ceded the lands have been left, right and religious and all had the interests of the Jewish People in mind.


Before confronting the security question, first one must deal with the 10,000 or so Jews who were forced to leave their homes and consider their perspectives. The majority of Israelis living in the areas evacuated were and most likely continue to be supporters of the National Religious Party (NRP) or the National Union (NU). They are the nucleus of what can be termed “the orange wave”. Both believe in the Greater Land of Israel as a value, even if the NRP is somewhat more moderate in approach. They consider the Disengagement an “expulsion”, often compare it to atrocities against Jews over the ages in Europe and the Moslem world and view the Sharon government as having betrayed them. Many have dropped out of the Israeli political mainstream preferring to “disengage” from the state. The overall ideological view is one of God’s will (diocentrism) versus that of an Israeli government elected by humans (anthrocentism).

Their issue is much deeper than security, “encouraging terrorism” or arriving at a bi-lateral agreement with the Palestinian leadership in order to facilitate a withdrawal. The issue of dual sovereignty is paramount. Does one follow the will of God or the will of humans? The NRP/NU rabbis as representatives of the Divine on earth could form an alternative leadership to Israel’s elected officials. They worked against the Disengagement but failed as the IDF and police proceeded with the evacuation despite calls by the rabbis to disobey orders. But the question still remains, “Did the State of Israel and Jewish People work against the will of God?” There is no way to know, however as Jews we do not adhere to predetermination but rather believe we were given free will and the right to make decisions for ourselves on earth.

This is very clear in the Talmudic narrative concerning “Ochnai’s Oven” where the great Rabbi Eliezer was imbued with the spirit of the Almighty in declaring the oven kosher (and even performed miracles to prove his point) while the younger rabbis, many whom had been his students, declared the oven treif (not kosher). Rabbi Eliezer refused to accept the determination of the majority in the Sanhedrin and was excommunicated. God admitted to the legitimacy of being overruled by his children on earth. The point is that the decision to “disengage” was fully legal and legitimate, whether from a secular or religious perspective and no, one does not need a decision by the Sanhedrin to remove the Gush Katif settlement bloc. The secular State of Israel established these settlements and has the right to remove them. This was all done with a majority in the Knesset and the government.

Next is the issue of Sharon’s corruption. Arik was the national leader and “bulldozer” who had a hand in the establishment of more settlements than any other one political figure. The Right (religious or not) did not see him as corrupt when he was in the settlement business, only when he removed them. To think Sharon would change his whole ideology and legacy due to possible charges of receiving illegal election funds would make him into a total buffoon. Rather, Sharon, who as a right wing secular politician was willing to withdraw from parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza if he believed it was beneficial to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. He closed this deal with US Pres. George Bush in April 2004 with the exchange of letters where the former asserted: Israel’s right to build the controversial security fence; the right of Israel to pursue terrorism wherever; that the 1949-67 armistice lines are not necessarily the final border as Jewish settlement blocs need to be considered in a permanent status agreement (PSA) and that the Palestinians had no right to refugee return inside Israel proper. The Disengagement idea was to unilaterally establish borders (even if not immediately recognized internationally), disentangle from the Palestinians and seal the deal with the US.

As for the security argument both Left and Right ride the bandwagon. Both wanted agreements with the Palestinians, meaning the secular Fatah led by Pres. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). But the only conditions he could accept would be a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries. The far left could accept this but even Yossi Beilin and Meretz would have a hard time agreeing to evacuate a quarter of a million Jews from east Jerusalem along with the Jewish Quarter. Beilin continuously makes noises concerning Palestinian agreement in principle during Camp David 2000 and Taba 2001 to allow east Jerusalem Jews to remain put, but by the summer of 2005 whatever was agreed upon four to five years previous was irrelevant after the rise of the Hamas. Beilin’s game was “Let’s Pretend”.

A similar point is in order when confronting right wing critics led by Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu who for sure would have rejected the Palestinian demands. The right including the NRP/NU would have left the settlements in place while the Left led by Beilin would have no choice but to support the government as they did last summer. Both Beilin and Netanyahu claim that with Palestinian agreement there would be security. As we all know neither the Palestinian police nor anyone else in the Palestinian Authority can enforce an agreement of any sort over the opposition of the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aksa Brigades, the popular committees, etc. Nor do they have the inclination. The secular Right and especially Netanyahu are quite cynical on two counts since they would not want to keep Gaza in a PSA and as PM Netanyahu signed the Wye Accords calling for a further Israeli withdrawal from another 14% of the landmass of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

The 8,000 Jews in Gaza were surrounded by 1.3 million Palestinians, most Hamas supporters, as we saw in the January elections when they took 76 out of 132 seats. Sharon did the right thing from both a political (disentangling from a bi-national situation) and military (completely indefensible settlements) perspective while bringing about an explicitly stated shift in US foreign policy. Israel gained on both fronts. Remaining in Gaza did not enhance anyone’s security, least of all those Jews who resided there who were pounded consistently by Palestinian rockets.

None of this absolves the state from its human rights obligations towards those evacuated. As mentioned previously in this column, the state failed miserably in moving, resettling and reintegrating the Gaza and northern Samaria residents into Israel. There is no excuse for such lack of sensitivity and planning.

Today, the security question and the impact the Disengagement had on terrorism must be confronted head-on. The concerns are completely legitimate since Israel faces a never ending security threat. CHODOFF – ENTER HERE