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

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas