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August 12, 2015 8:00 am

Ten Years Later, Gaza Withdrawal Was a Clear Mistake

avatar by Benyamin Korn

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Rockets fire from Gaza. PHOTO: Alalam.

Rockets fire from Gaza. Photo: Alalam.

The tenth anniversary of Israel’s retreat from Gaza has occasioned a number of interesting commentaries. Perhaps the most innovative comes from Shmuel Rosner, of Haaretz and the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, who views the withdrawal as a kind of triumph for Zionism, surprisingly enough.

We should “rejoice” over the fact that Israel “chose” on its own to leave Gaza, Rosner contends. “We took our fate in our own hands…The Jews were not evicted…We were not driven out.” He is alluding to the classic Zionist concept of Jews taking their fate into their own hands by creating a Jewish state, instead of always having their fate determined by the various other countries in which they lived.

Rosner’s argument is certainly an innovative way of trying to see some good in a withdrawal that most Israelis now think was bad. But Rosner is absolutely mistaken.

The Gaza withdrawal decision was not made in some kind of vacuum. The Israeli government did not wake up one day and decide, on its own, that the time had come to leave Gaza.

The decision to withdraw came in response to decades of international pressure and frequent Palestinian Arab terrorism – not to mention relentless lobbying by the Jewish “peace” movement.

Remember? Peace Now demonstrators and snarky New York Times op-ed columnists insisted that the Palestinians do not want to destroy Israel – they just want to govern their own territory. Get out of Gaza and there will be peace, they declared. “Territories for peace” was their rallying cry, their sound byte, their bumper sticker (literally).

And don’t forget the “demographic argument.” We heard that one only about a million times. If Israel did not withdraw from Gaza, it would soon have an Arab majority or become an apartheid state, the Jewish left and the U.S. State Department darkly warned.

That argument never made sense. It was never a choice between making Gazans into Israeli voters or creating an Israeli version of South Africa. There was always a third choice — the status quo. Let them govern their own affairs and vote in their own elections, while keeping an Israeli security presence to combat the terrorists. Yitzhak Rabin went with an expanded version of the status quo – granting self-rule in Gaza as well as the parts of Judea-Samaria where 98% of the Arabs reside. They vote – but in their own elections. They have self-rule – but without the dangers (to Israel) of sovereignty.

But that wasn’t enough. The international community and the Jewish left kept demanding a complete Israeli withdrawal. And the Palestinians in Gaza kept up their terrorism. It was this combination of pressure, lobbying, and murder that made Israel’s hold on the area politically and militarily difficult, and resulted in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw. It was hardly a voluntary choice.

Why was Israel in Gaza in the first place? Not because it enjoyed governing a large Palestinian population. It was there for two reasons: because Gaza is situated between Israel and Egypt – and thus was strategically important in the Arab-Israeli wars; and because the Arabs used it as a launching pad for terrorism, and the only way to effectively combat the terrorists was to have troops there. (It also happens to be a fact that Gaza has deep Jewish roots, going all the way back to Biblical times – but that is a separate issue.)

No, the Gaza withdrawal was not genuinely voluntary, and it is nothing to rejoice over. It was a case of Israel surrendering to multiple sources of pressure, rather than adhering to its strategic and security needs. The result? The rise of a de facto Hamas terrorist state, thousands of rockets striking Israel’s cities, and no sign of the peace that the Jewish left was so sure would follow Israel’s retreat.

Mr. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune, is chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists.

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  • Michael Fox

    If the conclusion is that it was a mistake for israel to pull out of Gaza, it would be nothing less than calamitous disaster for Israel to hand over what the US President and others refer to as the west bank to the Arabs. It would be the end of Israel, as the Jewish state would now come under attack from the east, north and west. There is no simple solution. Hard choices need to be made but none of the options is suicide.

  • Hershel Barg

    It’s too bad you weren’t editor of the Jewish Exponent at the time of the disengagement. Back then I wrote letter after letter to Jonathan Tobin pleading with him to air the writings of those opposed to the disengagement as a counterpoint to the numerous articles appearing in favor of it.
    I bitterly recall their editorial comparing the disengagement of 8,000 Jews from Gaza to the 1,000 Jews from Northern Sinai, foreseeing no difference between the former and the latter.
    When, just before the disengagement took effect, a 2 page spread of applause for the action appeared in its centerfold, I cancelled my subscription to the Exponent. It’s demise is a good riddance.

  • B”H Unfortunately the lessons of Gush Katif were not learned as evidenced by the recent destruction of homes at Beit El

  • Hindsight is always 100% right, but lets get real, this is why there cannot be a two state solution as all that it would create and modeled after is a larger Gaza filled withe terrorist organisations that are wanting to drive Jews into the sea!!!

  • There is a ‘fourth’ option. To do what ANY normal county would do and TAKE CONTROL!!! Namely evict ALL undesirables such as terrorists or even potential terrorists and the staffs of any schools or any form of media teaching anti-semitism.

  • Tim

    I think Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says it all. In history, whenever Israel showed mercy to these people, they paid dearly for it, for years to come. The people of Israel have always trusted their enemies too much and have historically shown them favor too many times which they always paid dearly for in atrocities against Israel from the very people that they showed favor too. Maybe it is time for Israeli leadership to wake up and smell the coffee.

    (1) “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, (2) and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.

  • Paul

    MR. Korn
    You are trying to rewrite history, raising and defeating spurious arguments, and ignoring the actual realities.
    Israel did not leave Gaza for the reasons you choose to present and defeat. We left Gaza because Arik Sharon, who spent so many years trying to achieve “Greater Israel”, realised that we cannot win this battle this way, and he came out with his Herzlia speech in which he stated “you cannot rule another people at the end of a rifle, forever”. He woke up to the reality – you have yet to do so.
    You ignore the fact that BEFORE the withdrawal, we were continually suffering from rocket attacks from Gaza. Arik gave ZAHAL carte blanche to stop the rockets BEFORE the withdrawal – and they COULDN’T ! The IDF informed him that battle this could only be solved politically. There was no possible military victory.
    The problem is NOT that we left Gaza, but the WAY we left – Arik felt there was no one to negotiate with, and therefore we left unilaterally. THAT was the mistake. Instead of helping those who we CAN talk to become strong enough to put down their own extremists, we put down their moderates and their extremists then take over. We keep repeating this stupidity, due to voices like yours. Your voice is helping the Jewish extremists too. Unless the moderate people realize that the extremists ON BOTH SIDES are the enemy, and stand up and start really fighting for our existence, the extremists will bring us down.

    More seriously – you are ignoring the reality of the current right-wing demand for rejecting the the-state solution: Between the Jordan and the sea, there are TODAY 6.1 million Jews and 5.9 million Arabs. they have a higher total birthrate that the jews, and within the next couple of years they will be a majority in the area of “GREATER ISRAEL”. In one state for all, we WILL become a minority here – the Jews will become a minority here, or will try maintain power by denying the Arabs the vote (also known as apartheid). the fact that the Israeli right wing and the Hamas both want a one-state solution should open your eyes to something you do not seem to see.

  • Anatoly Tsaliovich

    A much more “rational’ solution at that troubling time would have been to evacuate all the leftist garbage (such as Shalom Akhshav, Meretz, and others) to enjoy the company of their “spiritual friends” in Syria, Iran, etc. – instead of destroying the thriving Jewish communities in Gaza and at the cost of inflicting unimaginable suffering to the Jewish people.

  • In addition to very good reasons Mr. Korn gives for the Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip — strategid, security, and historical — there is also a major legal component:

    The Gaza Strip was part of the Palestine Mandate territory, wich was recognized under international law in the early 1920s as being the area reserved for the Jewish National Home.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    The withdrawal from Gaza was a terrible mistake, even if Mr. Shmuel Rosen feels there is reason to rejoice in the fact that the Jews weren’t actually driven out.

    Now that even the willfully blind can see the parameters of the next Gaza war, it’s clear that Israel will have to destroy Hamas and reoccupy the Strip.

    Who knows, Shmuel may celebrate the Israelis driving BACK into Gaza – but I doubt it.

  • glenda urmacher

    There was a fourth choice in Gaza ten years ago.
    That was to expel all the Muslims to Egypt and Lebanon and Syria.
    That should have been the price the middle east countries face when they go to war with Israel!
    The expulsion of the Muslim population, and annexation to Israel of Gaza.
    There would have been no more wars if they all realized this was the final move and end result.
    And to hell with the rest of the world.
    Israel will always be on some moronic country’s sh-t list.
    So who cares.
    An increase in Jewish populations, and land mass, and defensible borders.