Strategy of Unilateral Withdrawal

Test Case of The Disengagement Program

Adi Arbel and Inbal Liber

2005: The Disengagement Plan was initiated as one of the most dramatic moves in history of the Israeli government: unilateral evacuation of nearly 9,000 Israeli residents from Gush Katif and northern Samaria coupled with the withdrawal of security forces out of the Gaza Strip.

2015: Ten years following the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria, it is evident that the political reality facing Palestinians has hardly changed – the levels of trust between the two governments is tenuous at best, and the security situation is unstable and a political settlement between them can be described as implausible and remote under the current status quo.

The objective of this document is to analyze the strategic implications from the test results of the unilateral withdrawals, employing the disengagement plan as a case study. What were the goals for carrying out the disengagement plan? Does the program achieve its objectives? In light of the political challenges it faces, can unilateral withdrawals be implemented for the betterment of the State of Israel?

At first, 12 goals were posited to justify  a plan of unilateral withdrawal: Breaking the political deadlock, the neutralization of alternative policy initiatives, separation from the Palestinians, keeping the settlement blocs, the need to protect the residents, the difficulty of low intensity conflict, dealing with instances of insubordination, international demand for political progress, causing international pressure to be directed against the Palestinians rather than against Israel, ending Israeli rule over another people, countering the posited demographic problem, and satisfying the public pressure to leave Gaza.

The second part of the position paper examines the degree of success to which the disengagement plan attains its intended results. The results reveal an almost total failure to achieveany of the stated goals: the political stalemate continues, the alternative policy initiatives promoted before the program have not been neutralized, the separation from the Palestinians has not even been partially achieved, the already negative political status of the settlement blocs has only worsened, and the people of Israel have been exposed to greater threats from the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, Israel has experienced rounds of low intensity intensive combat, instances of insubordination did not stop but in fact spread to additional groups in Israeli society, and the international demand for political progress only intensified. The Gaza Strip, still a demographic time bomb on Israel’s front doorstep and has not been subjected to the same degree of international pressure directed at Israel The Disengagement plan has caused increased international pressures on Israel, it has also weakened Israeli society from within.

Ten years after the Disengagement Plan, there is a broad consensus in Israel that the disengagement  has been a complete and abject failure. This failure was due to geopolitical factors which have not changed so that any future unilateral withdrawal will likewise fail to achieve the stated goals.

To The Full Position Paper (In Hebrew)

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