Former IDF Chief Yaalon: Gaza Withdrawal Was A “Mistake Of The First Order” Which “Harmed America’s War On Terror”
July 6, 2006

“Political distress” caused
Sharon’s Gaza decision

The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, has condemned Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria last year as a “strategic mistake of the first order” which has “harmed America’s strategic war on terror in the region.” “The Disengagement was not the result of thorough strategic analysis, but the result of [then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s] political distress.” He also described it as a “disengagement from reality, a disengagement from truth.” General Yaalon’s remarks appear in an interview which will be published in full in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz this weekend (Yediot Ahronot, July 6).

Selected observations by General Yaalon:

  • “There is no doubt the Disengagement failed.” The entire withdrawal and expulsion of 10,000 Jewish residents from Gaza and northern Samaria “was an internal Israeli game that ignored what’s going on outside Israel.”

  • “It brought about the Hamas victory. It emboldened terror groups. It has fueled the Palestinian struggle for years. It created a feeling among the Iranians, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda that Israel can be beaten, that Israel is a society of spider webs as [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah said or a rotten tree as [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said.

  • “… the disengagement not only harmed us badly, but also harmed America’s strategic war on terror in the region. It created a feeling among Muslim extremists that as it defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, it defeated us in Gaza and it will defeat us in Tel Aviv. As such, as they destabilized a super power, they will destabilize the west by defeating Israel.”

  • “The process created an illusionary hope which was not planned strategically and practically. The disengagement was mainly a media spin. Those who initiated it and lead it lacked the strategic, security, political and historical background. They were image counselors and spin doctors. These people put Israel into a virtual spin, disconnected from reality, using a media spin campaign which is imploding before our eyes.”

  • “The Israeli public backed the disengagement because it was blinded and drugged and because it really wanted to free itself from the burden of the conflict and divide the land. But we have to understand that although we are trying to shake the Palestinians off our backs, they refuse to get off our backs and stab us instead.”

  • “At the moment, our situation in Gaza is similar to southern Lebanon …Plenty of arms have been smuggled into Gaza: explosives, Katyusha rockets, anti-aircraft rockets, anti-tank rockets, Grad rockets. As a result of the manner in which the pullout was carried out, there are Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Iranian elements in the Gaza Strip.”

  • “We cannot barricade ourselves behind walls and fences. There is no such thing as unilateralism. Even when we refuse to talk with our neighbors there is interaction with them.”

  • “The intellectual failure of the disengagement is this: The fact that there is no one to speak to on the other side doesn’t mean that we can ignore the other side and the effects of its actions upon us. The fact that even the Fatah leadership is not ready to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, while it says it is committed to the Road Map peace plan, doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact that pulling out under fire is perceived as surrender and encourages terror.”

  • “When the steps are withdrawal after withdrawal after withdrawal, we convey weakness. And he who conveys weakness in the Middle East is like a weak animal in nature: he comes under attack.”

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