Assessing the Gaza Disengagement, Ten Years Later

By August 16, 2015

On July 22, 2015, prominent politicians, generals, rabbis, writers and an audience of well over 300 people gathered at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies for a ten-year retrospective on Israel’s 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza.

Videos of select lectures (in Hebrew) are accessible by clicking on speaker names.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Security Council for Israel, whose president, Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, delivered opening remarks. Dayan sharply critiqued the disengagement, noting that none of the strategic and diplomatic benefits promised by proponents of the Gaza withdrawal had come to fruition, “to say the least.”

At the core of the conference was a debate between two Israeli intellectual giants on the meaning of “home.” Rabbi Yaakov Medan, head of the Har Etzion Hesder yeshiva, and the novelist, Prof. A.B. Yehoshua, disagreed sharply on the meaning of Jewish identity and homeland. (Rabbi Medan and Prof. Yehoshua are pictured above). Also participating in this discussion was Mrs. Anita Tucker, a Gush Katif resident for over 30 years. Watch the fascinating debate here.

Adv. Dov Weissglass, former Director of Prime Minister Sharon’s Bureau, and former Cabinet Secretary Israel Maimon defended the disengagement. According to Weissglass, Sharon was mugged by “reality,” realizing that Israel could not retain the territories unless “it wishes to be like Sparta or North Korea.” By displaying “generosity and initiative” to decide Israel’s own borders, Sharon thought, Israel would stand in higher regard in the international community. Weisglass and Maimon dismissed charges that Sharon was motivated by the many criminal charges against him; and they rejected any causal connection between the Israeli withdrawal and the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon HaCohen, the military commander in charge of the disengagement, described how he gave the evacuation plan a “Zionist” hue, and sought to avoid bloodshed. At the same time, he said that he personally opposed the disengagement, and believed that no such withdrawal from the West Bank should ever be attempted. (Hacohen will be joining the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies as a research associate this fall, where he will write a book on this matter).

Dr. Anat Roth, a researcher and author on Israeli settlements and the disengagement from Gaza, detailed how the Israeli media gave overwhelming and almost exclusively favorable coverage to the withdrawal plan, while shutting out all other voices and opinions – thus delegitimizing the plan’s opponents.

A security session focused on implications of the unilateral disengagement for Israel’s diplomatic future. Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, described the many ways in which the disengagement had weakened Israel. Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies concurred, although noted that the decision was reached legally and legitimately. Prof. Efraim Inbar noted that the result of the disengagement – Hamas takeover of Gaza – undermines the feasibility of the two-state solution and demonstrates that “the Palestinians are incapable of establishing a state.”