Ariel Sharon’s Advisers Prepared a Plan for Disengagement from the West Bank. But Did He Plan to Follow Through?

On the Jewish calendar, last Friday marked the fifteenth anniversary of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, during which the country forcibly removed some 9,000 of its own citizens from their homes. Since then, Gaza has become a launching pad from which Hamas and other terrorist groups can fire rockets and incendiary devices into the Jewish state. Evidence has recently emerged that then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had convened a committee to come up with a plan for a broader disengagement from the West Bank, writes Nadav Shragai:

At that time, the team was asked to present the security and defense, economic, legal, and diplomatic framework for another withdrawal, . . . to be based on the lessons of the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria. The committee was not given a mandate to lay down the borders of the retreat or decide which settlements would be evacuated, but was asked to map out the Israeli interests of another unilateral move for the area of the West Bank, if it turned out that there was no Palestinian partner for peace negotiations.

Thus, for example, [the committee] looked as the financial costs of evacuating 15,000 settler families (about 100,000 people) from far-flung communities. This would have been ten times as many setters as the number evicted from Gush Katif. [The major settlement blocs, home to roughly 150,000 other Israelis, would remain under Israeli control.]

According to the committee, [however], the West Bank is “tactical terrain,” whereas the Gaza Strip is topographically lower than Israel. The West Bank also has a number of water sources that are important to residents of Israel, which Gaza does not. The Gaza Strip is entirely closed off and easier to control from outside in terms of security. In contrast, the committee said, Israel would have difficulty finding a solution to the threat of rocket fire from hilly areas in Judea and Samaria, and there was also concern that Hamas would gain control of the large population centers there, making continued IDF presence in key parts of Judea and Samaria the most reasonable way of preventing rocket attacks and a Hamas takeover.

Whether Sharon ever seriously considered executing such a plan, and if so, how close he came to doing so, remain open questions. Shragai does believe it likely that his successor, Ehud Olmert, would have done so given the time and political ability.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Gaza withdrawal, Israeli politics, West Bank


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy