Over the past several months, Voices Magazine has quoted experts and facts from finance, ecology, security and real estate to varied authorities in many fields that have warned of the dangers of the “Disengagement” from Gaza, and the destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the Shomron.
Unfortunately, despite the economic, ecological and social disaster that the expulsion portends, the government is determined to continue along this path.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear two military experts discuss the fuller meaning of a Gaza withdrawal. Arranged by the Center for Near East Policy Research, the conference presented Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former commander of Israel’s National Defense College and former head of the research and assessment division of Israeli military intelligence, and Col. Shuki Rinsky, who retired a few weeks ago after serving for two years in Gaza as deputy of the Gaza division.
David S. Bedein, recently named director of the Center, acted as MC.
Looking at the Disengagement Plan from a rational, rather than an ideological perspective, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror stated that “the entire Plan is illogical from three aspects.”
Firstly, it is a tactical error. The major general noted, “It will bring areas, which are now out of the radius of the kassams, into their range. And within weeks or months, if the Hamas and Islamic Jihad decide to plunge katushas or kassams on Ashkelon, for example, they will be able to do so.”
Even the efficiency of the Gaza fence to stop infiltrations to Israel will be greatly reduced by the pull-out, he explained, because the IDF will not have forces behind the fence that can stop or monitor those approaching the fence. “It will reduce our ability to fight terrorists who are planning to cross the fence.”
Secondly, the unilateral Disengage-ment is a deterrent for those Arabs who might have wanted to negotiate with the Israelis. Maj.-Gen. Amidror explained, “If the Palestinians can get everything without pay-ing any price…without promising that they won’t launch kassams, without promising a crackdown on terrorism, nothing… and the decision of the government of Israel is to give up everything without getting anything, why negotiate.”
He added, “The Palestinians and the Europeans, and even some Americans, will put pressure on Israel in the future, saying, ‘We have learned that you are willing to give up without getting anything.'”
Thirdly, and in his eyes, most importantly, “From the Palestinian point of view, the unilateral retreat is the greatest success of the terror organizations.” The major general noted that a recent survey shows that 74% of the Palestinian population believes the evacuation “is an achievement of the terror organizations.”
This third aspect contrasts the viewpoints of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and that of Hizbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. While the late President Sadat didn’t like Israelis, the major general said, he felt it was in the best interest of his nation to negotiate with the State of Israel, because his “nation could not win a war”.
“On the other hand, Hizbollah’s Nasrallah, said ‘The Israelis are full of fear of terrorism. Use it and they will run.’ A unilateral retreat from Gaza adds lots of weight to Nasrallah’s outlook. At the end of the day Nasrallah can say, ‘I was right. I fought the Israelis in South Lebanon and they’re out. You fight the Israelis in Gaza Strip and they’re out. Continue to fight the Israelis in Judea and Samaria, and they will be out. And then, why is the area behind the Green Line different from Judea and Samaria?'”
Amidror stated, “This unilateral retreat is adding to the notion that Israel can be pulled out of any place by using terrorism.”
Maj.-Gen. Amidror added, “Following the Disengagement, more Palestinians will be ready to help the terror organizations, because people like success.”
An Historic Mistake
“It is an historic mistake,” he exclaimed, “because it is not connected to tactics, or strategy of negotiations. It is dealing with the whole history of the Jewish people here in the Middle East. At the end of the day, the Arabs will have learned that they were successful in pushing Israel out of Gaza because they used terrorism.”
“If terror prevails,” he warned, “We are doomed to live with terrorism for our entire future.”
“This is why so many Americans were surprised by this plan,” Amidror noted. “We forced the Americans to agree to this plan, because it is against the whole philosophy of fighting terrorism.”
Contradicting those who say if the pullout of Gaza doesn’t work, we can just re-enter, the major general said, “Don’t be so sure of the easiness of going in and out [of Gaza].”
“Do you know when we went in to reconquer these [Arab] areas?,” he asked. “After 1000 people were killed and 10,000 injured. Only then did we go to Jenin, and so forth. It’s easy to pull out. It’s very complicated to go in.”
In addition, he said, “Because, as far as I understand, we are giving the entire ring around Gaza to the Palestinians, the situation to go in will be more complicated politically and militarily. Plus they will have increased the ability to defend themselves. It will not be isolated like Judea and Samaria. It will be connected to Egypt. It will have an airport and a seaport. So, while it is easy to say that if we need to, we will go in, when the time comes, it will be very complicated and perhaps impossible, because of the price.”
Adding his own commentary, Colonel Shuki Rinsky, former deputy of the Gaza division, who served in Gaza for two years and retired a few weeks ago, said, “On the day that we will leave this area, the security in the entire southern part of Israel will be much worse than it is today.”
“As an officer who has served in Gaza, I know that the fact that there were settlements there and citizens there, and because we had bases on the ground there, it made our offensive and defensive capabilities easier.”
Maj. Gen. Amidror said, “Why did we succeed so wonderfully in Judea and Samaria? Not because of the fence. At least half of it is not sealed by the fence. But because we recaptured the cities and the Palestinian areas, we are able to get intelligence, we have freedom of operations inside, and it is easy to react. So the success is almost 100%. At the same time we didn’t succeed to stop the kassams from Gaza, because in Gaza, we didn’t go back to those cities.”
Greater Danger from Mortars and Tunnels
Col. Rinsky explained that two major security dangers will threaten Israel more deeply if the IDF retreats from Gaza: mortars and missiles, and smuggling tunnels. “After the Disengagement, what will the IDF do when mortars and kassams are fired on places in Israel like Ashkelon, Netivot, Beersheva, Ofakim and Kiryat Gat, places that today are not threatened by kassams?”
“A day after the Disengagement, how can Israel prevent tunnels from Gaza under the Green Line to Israel? I am sure that the Palestinians are already preparing tunnels today towards what will be the border tomorrow.”
The colonel said, “Right now the only answer to kassams and mortars is to be on the ground. It’s not a high tech method that can be fought in other ways. To prevent shooting those primitive weapons, you must be on the ground.”
And although he thinks the solution to smuggling tunnels might be found if the IDF worked intensively on the problem, leaving the area will only bring more alarming tunnels “Today the depth of the tunnels is only a few meters. After we leave the Gaza Strip, it will be a full construction of building tunnels with heavy tools, not like it’s done today.”
In addition to the security information discussed at the press conference, one of the most interesting moments came when the Arab reporter for the BBC asked two questions on the mind of Arabs everywhere. His questions were instant proof of the general’s warning that the Disengagement Plan would embolden of our enemy.
To the general: “Strategically, Israel actually withdrew from Lebanon because of terrorism, and now is withdrawing from Gaza, also from terrorism. What are the guarantees that Israel won’t also withdraw from Gush Etzion or Hebron or from the West Bank after ten years?”
To the colonel: “How will you feel seeing the Islamic Jihad and Hamas flags on your past military bases, saying that they have won?”
This piece appeared in the July 2005 issue of Voices magazine