Op-Ed: Leaving Gaza Is A Historic Mistake by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
News Op-Ed Press Release
August 1, 2005

After the tragic mistake of Oslo, it is perplexing to see another tragic mistake taking place — the Israel government giving away the Jewish sections of Gaza and northern Samaria, and the forced uprooting of 10,000 Jewish men, women and children from their homes, schools, synagogues, farms and businesses.

This unilateral withdrawal does nothing less than send a clear message that terrorism pays and pays well and only encourages more terrorism. As the outgoing Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff General Moshe Ya’alon said, “Evacuating the settlements will give a tailwind to terrorism … This Gaza plan will blow up in our faces.” The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby added, “The abandonment of Gaza plays into the hands of the Jew-haters. It reinforces the notion that any Jewish presence is intolerable on land the Arabs claim for themselves, and if that is an argument against Jewish life in Gaza, it is also an argument against Jewish life in Israel.”

There can be no doubt that the recent four-year Palestinian terror campaign, which has caused the murder of over 1,500 Israelis and maimed many thousands more, has caused the formulation of this evacuation plan.

Even if one supports uprooting Jewish communities from Gaza and northern Samaria, the Oslo experiment made it clear that no concessions should ever be made without receiving something concrete in return. After all, there are many vital issues still on the table — Jerusalem; the “refugees”; the future of Jewish communities and land in Judea-Samaria. At a minimum, you don’t make major concessions, like uprooting whole Jewish communities, without removing at least one of these issues from the table.

Nor is it just a question of giving something for nothing, which would be bad enough. This withdrawal plan actually increases the danger to Israel and its citizens.

With Israeli forces out of Gaza, Palestinian terrorists will be even closer to Israeli towns like Ashdod and Ashkelon, enabling them to launch rockets capable of inflicting serious damage to these places. Major strategic assets, like electricity grids in both towns, will be at risk. I myself have spoken to Israeli mayors from townships in the vicinity. All tell me that they fear a serious deterioration in their security and oppose this Gaza plan. The Israeli government is now providing them with red alert missile systems and concrete roofs.

It is bewildering to hear Israeli Prime Minister Sharon telling us not to worry because Egyptian troops will come into Gaza to protect Israelis after the retreat. This makes no sense. For years, Egypt has been facilitating the smuggling of arms and explosives from Egypt into Gaza. It is beyond the pale of reason to believe that Egypt will suddenly stop these massive smuggling operations after all Israelis have left Gaza.

Indeed, General Uzi Dekel, the director of Strategic Planning in the Israel Defense Forces, has disclosed that Egypt and the Palestinian Authority “refuse even verbally to accept responsibility for fighting terrorism” once the retreat is over. And a new 83-page U.S. report in coordination with General William Ward, the U.S. coordinator to overhaul the Palestinian Authority (PA) security apparatus, found that the PA security force is divided, weak, and badly motivated, making it clear that after Israel leaves, the PA has neither the will nor capability to fight Palestinian Arab terror, stop the smuggling or the mortars and missiles.

Many members of the U.S. Senate and House have told us privately that this Plan is a mistake because it rewards the terrorists we are all trying to destroy. Cong. Dan Burton (R-IN), member of the International Relations Committee, said publicly “my experience tells me if you take steps to appease an enemy you only give him a green light to put more pressure on you.” American citizens agree with Burton. A major poll by McLaughlin & Associates showed that 63% of Americans oppose this plan and believe it rewards terrorism.

A major argument one regularly hears from supporters of this plan is that Israelis faces a demographic disaster there and therefore must withdraw because they cannot continue ruling over 1 million Palestinians in Gaza. This is completely false.

In 1994, under Oslo’s Gaza — Jericho First Plan, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew from 88% of Gaza where the 1 million Palestinians live. The 9,000 Jews in Gaza live in the remaining 12% of Gaza that remains under Israeli control, which is in a narrow strip along the Mediterranean. These areas include only 2,000 Palestinians Arabs. There is no demographic benefit to Israel ceding an area that is 82% Jewish.

Professor Shai Feldman, former director of the Jaffee Institute for Strategic Studies and present director of Brandeis University’s Middle East center, has repeatedly stated that, “Israel faces no demographic issue in Gaza.”

It is a painful fact to realize that withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria will endanger Israelis and not produce moderation or calm on the Palestinian side. In his 8 months as Chief of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has taken no real actions to promote peace and many actions to promote hatred and violence. He has refused to dismantle and disarm the terror groups; he hasn’t stopped the incitement; he hasn’t closed the bomb factories, arrested terrorists or stopped the smuggling of arms from the Sinai. But he has invited Hamas to join his regime and has invited the Palestinian terror chiefs in Damascus to move to Gaza after Israel leaves. All this is hardly evidence that leaving Gaza will produce anything but more terror. Prominent Israeli leaders as well as the Palestinian terrorist leaders agree.

Former Israeli cabinet minister, Natan Sharansky, said, “I oppose the disengagement plan which is a tragic mistake that will exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians, increase terrorism, and dim the prospects of forging a genuine peace.”

General Yaacov Amidror, former head of the Israel Defense Forces research intelligence assessment division, argued that, “leaving Gaza creates a dangerous possibility that Hamas will provide a Gaza safe haven for al-Qaeda … including operational, logistical and financial sanctuary there.”

Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas commander, sees the disengagement from Gaza as “proof of our victory. The withdrawal is an important achievement of the Palestinian people, its intifada and armed struggle… Palestine must become Muslim, and in the long-term Israel will disappear from the face of the earth.”

Withdrawing from Gaza and northern Samaria is clearly a recipe for more terrorism and bloodshed, not peace and quiet. It harms both the Israeli and US war against terrorism, because rewarding terror only whets the appetite of the enemy. As Winston Churchill used to say, “those who appease the crocodile will simply be eaten last.”

  • Center for Law & Justice
    We work to educate the American public and Congress about legal issues in order to advance the interests of Israel and the Jewish people.
    We assist American victims of terrorism in vindicating their rights under the law, and seek to hold terrorists and sponsors of terrorism accountable for their actions.
    We fight anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses.
    We strive to enforce existing law and also to create new law in order to safeguard the rights of the Jewish people in the United States and Israel.