(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon considered quitting his post as IDF chief of staff to protest the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
However, he decided against it because he realized that his resignation would not help and he would be dubbed Israel’s “first conscientious objector,” Ya’alon said at an event in Jerusalem on Monday marking the 10-year anniversary of the disengagement.
Then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz decided six months before the disengagement to replace Ya’alon as chief of staff with then-IAF commander Dan Halutz, who supported it.
“I already thought back then that if we were able to create a situation after Operation Defensive Shield in which were able to move from defense to offense and were able to achieve deterrence, the withdrawal would set us back and would strengthen the radical Islamic elements, including Hezbollah and Hamas,” Ya’alon said. “It would also strengthen the Palestinian narrative, which holds that the issue at hand is a territorial conflict rather than their refusal to recognize us.”
The conference, organized by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), examined the functioning of Israeli democracy during the disengagement and the lessons that can be learned from the event. Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned at the event that there could be more unilateral withdrawals.
“The real danger is the next disengagement,” Bennett said.
“This is why we must break the glass ceiling. At the moment of truth, the nationalist camp was alone on the roof. The disengagement can happen again if our hand leaves the steering wheel driving this country.”
Bennett blasted what he called the nation’s leftist elites, who he said carried out the withdrawal not to achieve security as they said but to remove Jews from Gaza, en route to withdrawing from other territories.
He said that if the Left had gotten its way, Israel would have withdrawn from the Golan Heights and Islamic State would be firing at Israelis from it.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog defended the disengagement, saying it was right step to take, but it was carried out incorrectly. He said it proved that future withdrawals must take place as part of a bilateral agreement with regional influence.
IDI president Yohanan Plesner said in his opening remarks, the difficulty that the government experienced in dealing with relocating the evacuees stemmed from structural problems that prevent the government from addressing complex challenges.
“It is likely that in the future, there will not be broad consensus regarding the essence of territorial decisions,” Plesner said. “Therefore, it is vital that we agree on the process – on the democratic procedure by which the government will make decisions. In order to protect Israeli society and the State of Israel it is imperative to agree in advance on the method for decision making.”