The 2005 disengagement from Gaza made people realize that you can't simply make unilateral moves in order to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi said on Monday night.
Speaking at a Jerusalem Center for Israel Studies event at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Hanegbi delivered an exhaustive history of Ariel Sharon's program, in which more than 8,000 Israelis were removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.
"The disengagement has leveled a harsh blow to the concept of unilateralism," said Hanegbi, who chairs the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The logic, if you are forced to look for one behind Sharon's decision, was that you're no longer there. You're no longer harassing [the Palestinians]. You're no longer the occupier.
"But this logic dissipated when it turned out that you need two to tango, and that the other party does not play the game according to the rules, but instead tries to take advantage of the vacuum that was formed in order to empower itself."
Hanegbi, who voted against disengagement in 2005 as a Likud MK, on Monday focused on two major political outcomes of the disengagement: the split in the "right-wing world," and the "eventual fluctuation [in support] from the center-left back to the right."
"It had always been the norm of Likud to support their leaders, and in fact most supported Menachem Begin when he wanted to make uncharacteristic concessions in the early 1980s," said Hanegbi. "But here, with Sharon and the disengagement there was a split. It was no longer a debate, it was personal accusations against Sharon, such as the one that he was trying to save himself from various financial investigations. Most people believe that this was the true motivation behind Sharon's decision."
In the first general election following the disengagement, in March 2006, the Likud went from 40 Knesset seats to 12 - the largest decline in Israeli political history.
The second outcome took place at a "staggering pace," according to Hanegbi, and culminated with Operation Cast Lead last winter.
"I often ask my friends what would have happened had there been a resolute reaction from Israel to the Kassams," he said. "If a type of Operation Cast Lead had taken place two years earlier, it could have made a difference. But instead, Hamas continued quite forcefully, consolidating its power in Gaza."
As a result of the current reality on the ground, Hanegbi believes that unilateral disengagement no longer exists as an option.
"I don't know of any serious political entity - not even Peace Now or Meretz - that proposes unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria," he said. "The disengagement made people realize that you can't simply disengage unilaterally in order to end the conflict. I no longer hear in Israeli discourse things that I used to hear since I was in high school: prominent people who were no less Zionist than those sitting in this room believed that there was some sort of Gordian knot that can be severed through unilateral withdrawal."
Indeed, Israel may soon have to deal directly with Gaza once again, he said.
"With the developing capabilities of Hamas, the total backing they now receive from Iran, we will discover that these debates over unilateralism will soon become anachronistic and obsolete," Hanegbi said. "We will find ourselves in the midst of a quite demanding process in Gaza in order to change the dire ramifications that stemmed from the disengagement."
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