New York The former Labor Party leader and Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer, who is now National Infrastructure Minister in the government of Ehud Olmert, has admitted publicly that Israels 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a big mistake. Speaking in a radio interview, Ben Eliezer said, I admit and confess I was with those who strongly supported [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon, and today I say with my head held high: We erred, we made a very big mistake … [such a withdrawal can only work when territory is] handed over to responsible hands and anchored in agreements and international guarantees. Here we have a precedent — a territory we left turns into a base for terror — period.
Ben Eliezer is the most recent official to criticize the Gaza withdrawal and to assert the need to militarily deal with increased terrorism and insecurity that has flowed since from Gaza:
- MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud): It is clear that our withdrawal from the Philadelphi Corridor and our reliance on the Egyptians has proven to be a failure. The Egyptians are not acting … in reality their behavior has drastically increased the amount of weapons smuggled into Gaza (Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2006).
- Former Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Arens: The security establishment must not forget … that the Qassem [rockets] being fired on Ashkelon are being fired from areas that were abandoned as part of the Disengagement. The army must therefore return and conquer these areas, and only in this way will we be able to stop the rockets from being fired at us (Israel National News, April 25, 2006).
- Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev, Ex-Gaza Division Commander: short-term offensives against Gazan terrorists are ineffective, the IDF must conquer both northern Gaza & the Egypt-Gaza border: Its true that in general military activity must be accompanied by negotiations … but in this case, the Qassem rockets are a direct result not only of the terrorists who fire them, but of the wantonness, lack of professionalism and irresponsibility of this government and its ministers
The government is not implementing the most basic effective measures to fulfill its basic responsibility to protect the citizens of Sderot and the western Negev (Israel National News, April 25, 2006).
- Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin: Egypt has not combated World Jihad cells operating within Sinai and the peninsula is thus flooded with weapons smugglers (Haaretz, June 6, 2006).
- Current Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) and former Officer Commanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces, Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, have acknowledged that last years Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was mistake (Jerusalem Post, October 4 & 5, 2006).
- Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai: Israel needs to find a way to reassert control over it (Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2006).
- Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan: we need to sit on the Philadelphi Corridor for a long period of time (Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2006).
- Maj.-Gen. Dror Almog, OC, IDFs Southern Command, 2002 -2003): From a military point of view, theres no question it was a mistake to leave [the] Philadelphi [corridor] (Jerusalem Report, November 13, 2006).
- MK Yuval Steinitz: the only way to keep Gaza from turning into southern Lebanon was to launch an Operation Defensive Shield II and to recapture the Philadelphi route, the border between the Strip and Egypt (Haaretz, November 14, 2006).
- Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh: the government made a mistake by withdrawing from the Gaza area without an agreement with a responsible Arab authority (Israel National News, November 15, 2006).
- Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin: in another two or three years, it will be very difficult to deal with the problem called the Gaza Strip (Haaretz, March 13, 2007).
- MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) The picture being drawn for us is grave … I call on the government to launch Operation Defensive Shield II, in the Gaza Strip (Haaretz, March 13, 2007).
- Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon: the unilateral approach that drove the disengagement plan has failed and Israel must abandon it. The disengagement is seen by the other side as Israel fleeing. The IDF should launch a massive land deployment in Gaza in order to cleanse the land of the rocket threat, without the need to establish long-term control or reoccupy the area. The problem in Gaza will not solve itself and no one will solve it for us. It requires us to reach the terrorists and the areas in which they operate, and strike at the industry of terror. We did this during Operation Defensive Shield, and before that operation we were unsure about whether to proceed. Today, you must be blind not to realize the necessity of entering Gaza ( Haaretz, May 26, 2007).
Leaving Gaza resulted in it becoming a bigger terrorist stronghold and source of insecurity, as even many former supporters of the unilateral withdrawal have noted. This demonstrates that there should be no further concessions and rewards to the PA and no further uprooting of thousands of Jews from their homes as is being planned on an even grander scale by the current Olmert government.
Until the Israeli government recognizes that Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah are not moderate, peace-loving alternatives to Hamas, Israel will continue to embrace policies that further erode Israels security while the dangers to Jewish lives mount. The ZOA has urged repeatedly that Israel undertake a major military operation in Gaza to deal with the consolidation of terrorist groups there and to stop the rocket attacks. We have particularly urged the retaking of the Philadelphi Corridor, along the Gaza/Egypt border, as the only effective means for Israel to end the smuggling of offensive weaponry into Gaza.