The Arab Attitude toward Israel's 2005 Unilateral Disengagement

(Jewish Political Studies Review) Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser - Israel's 2005 unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria was perceived as an achievement of the Palestinian struggle. The decision to pursue disengagement was taken at a time when Palestinian terrorist activities reached their highest levels. From the Arab point of view, it exposed the failure of Israeli society to cope effectively with that challenge. The Palestinians began to think that the pressure on Israel should continue, which could then bring them closer to their next objective - a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and from Jerusalem. One may argue that the 2006 election victory for Hamas may be attributed to the perception of the general public which saw Hamas as the critical player in forcing Israel to seek disengagement from Gaza. For Hamas, Israel's decision clearly vindicated the movement's insistence that terror is the only way to liberate Palestine. Israel would claim that it no longer had the status of an occupier in Gaza, and its decision to leave the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border was defended on that basis. Yet the Palestinians easily managed to enlist international support for their position which still considered Israel as an occupying power, in a place where it had neither a military nor civilian presence. Unilateral concessions are perceived in the region as signs of weakness, and hence invite additional pressure. Conversely, demonstrating resolve discourages pressure. Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon encouraged the Palestinians to choose confrontation and launch the Second Intifada. The disengagement convinced the extremist elements among the Palestinians, along with Hizbullah, to continue the armed struggle, including a focus on kidnappings. There is a basic structural weakness in Western political and strategic thinking, a fundamental naivete which makes it difficult to see the other side as an enemy whom one must confront until he changes his policy and ceases to be an enemy. Many believe that even when the other side unequivocally regards us as an enemy that must be destroyed, we must view him as an opponent that can and should be placated and turned into a partner. Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser served as the head of the Research Division for IDF Military Intelligence in 2005 at the time of the disengagement from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria.

2016-02-18 00:00:00

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