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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
President Shimon Peres said Wednesday that he erred in supporting Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
"What will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the wrongs we did in leaving Gaza," Peres said in a question and answer session with a group of American Jewish leaders. "It should have been done otherwise. I was for leaving Gaza. I feel myself as one of the persons mistaken."
The president, who has long been a champion of territorial withdrawals to attain peace with the Palestinians, said that although "lessons must be drawn" from the 2005 pullout, "demographic and democratic" considerations still necessitate the creation of a Palestinian state.
"It doesn't change the fact that there is a [demographic] reality," he told the annual Israel meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "I want to make sure that the state we have remains Jewish."
The President's Office subsequently said that Peres meant that he was against the way the pullout was carried out, and the lack of political and security coordination with the Palestinians.
Under prime minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli unilaterally withdrew from Gaza as well as from four isolated settlements in the northern West Bank, evicting the 9,000 Israelis who lived there.
Two years later, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority.