It’s not too late for Israel to right its wrong and resettle Gaza, northern Samaria

Ten years after the disengagement, after thousands of rockets falling on good part of Israel, it’s clear that Ariel Sharon was wrong. But some of that wrong can be fixed.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

Ariel Sharon may have taken to his grave the real reason for his decision to uproot over 10,000 Israeli settlers from their homes 10 years ago. The fact is, a majority of Israelis supported his decision at the time, many trusting that his judgment would improve Israel’s security.

Who would question the security opinion of the general who led Israel’s soldiers across the Suez Canal in the crucial hours of the Yom Kippur War? Ten years later, after three major Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip and thousands of rockets falling on a good part of Israel, it’s clear to most that he was wrong.

Not only do the polls indicate that most Israelis now believe that Sharon’s withdrawal was a mistake, but, believe it or not, they insist they thought it was a mistake at the time. So much for denial on a grand scale.

A number of aspects of Sharon’s decision seem inexplicable to this day. Why in addition to the uprooting of the Gaza settlers in Gush Katif and Netzarim did he also decide to uproot the settlers at the Strip’s northern tip — Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit — which brought Ashkelon within range of Qassam rockets that could be launched from there?

Was he laboring under the illusion that by withdrawing right up to the armistice line concluded in February 1949 with Egypt, which left the Egyptian army in control of Gaza, he would improve Israel’s international standing?

Just look at the “improvement” in Israel’s international standing since the disengagement. Leaving these settlements in place would not have changed a thing in that regard. But to much of the public the slogan“getting out of Gaza” overpowered all rhyme or reason. It was good riddance to bad rubbish as far as they were concerned. For all they cared we should have let the Egyptian army stay there.

But most puzzling was Sharon’s decision to uproot the settlers of Kadim, Sa-Nur, Homesh and Ganim in northern Samaria. In four weeks we will mark 10 years since that totally irrational act. With all the attention drawn to the uprooting of the settlers of Gush Katif 10 years ago, these settlements seem to have been forgotten by most.

What possible reason was there for this outrageous action, carried out in the wake of the destruction of the settlements in the Gaza area? Not accompanied by an IDF withdrawal as in Gush Katif, what could their destruction possibly accomplish besides inflicting suffering on the settlers there? We will probably never know the reason, if there was any, behind this foul act.

Are these unfortunate acts irreversible? Will we see settlers returning to the areas where once stood their homes that have been destroyed?

Barring some cataclysmic events, Gush Katif will remain under some kind of Palestinian control for the foreseeable future. But the situation in Gaza’s northern tip could have been changed during any one of the three IDF operations in the area, most recently during Operation Protective Edge a year ago.

The area where once existed the settlements of Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit could have been occupied and retained by the IDF, thus providing at least a partial security improvement for the inhabitants of the Ashkelon area. The settlers could have returned. It was an opportunity missed.

Quite different is the situation of the destroyed settlements Kadim, Sa-Nur, Homesh and Ganim in northern Samaria. The area remains under IDF control. There seems to be no reason not to let the settlers return to their homes there. That would at least partially correct the injustice committed there 10 years ago. The time has come to give it some serious thought.

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