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Knesset Approves Disengagement from Gaza, 2005

On This Day in Jewish History: February 26, 2005

On this day the Israeli Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, approves plans to withdraw all Israeli presence from the Gaza strip in 2005. The idea was to swap land for peace, to give the Palestinian Authority the chance to build their own state within their own territory. As history now demonstrates, however, the plan backfired, literally. Over 9,000 Jewish residents were forcibly evicted from their homes, many of whose families had lived there for decades, and were made to relocate. In return the Palestinian Authority recieved complete sovereignty over the Gaza strip, but it wasn’t long before a civil war ensued between Fatah and Hamas, and Hamas won elections and seized control of Gaza in 2007, forcing PA president Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah to flee to Ramallah in the West Bank. Hamas vowed to continue its long standing war against Israel and began to launch an endless campaign of rocket attacks on Israeli cities, attacks which led to several Israeli retaliations, armed conflicts, and continue to this day. The disengagement was originally scheduled for July 2005, but Ariel Sharon worried that the date coincided with the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av (Jewish day of mourning), so he postponed the plan’s execution until August. The plan began with Operation Yad L’achim (giving a hand to the brothers), which aimed to compel Jewish families in Gush Katif to leave their homes willingly. Israeli soldiers presented them with eviction decrees and helped to pack the belongings of those who chose to leave willingly, even providing psychological counseling for traumatized youth. It would not be enough however, as hundreds of young Jewish men and women barricaded themselves inside of their homes, synagogues, and refused to leave. That’s when the soldiers were ordered to move in and remove the people by force. Images were shown all over the news of Jews dragging Jews out of their homes, the Israeli government promising compensation to the families for their sacrifice, compensation which to many Israelies seemed like a mere bandage over a much larger wound. By August 15th, 2005, the Kissufim crossing was closed and Gaza was closed to all Israelis. The Municipal Council of Gush Katif even threatened to unilaterally declare independence, which eventually they actually did. On August 14th, 2005 Aryeh Yitzhaki declared the independence of Shirat HaYam (former Israeli Settlement along Gaza’s beach) as the “Independent Jewish Authority in Gaza Beach,” even appealing for recognition from the United Nations. Major General Dan Harel of Israel’s Southern Command began the mandatory evacuation of Gaza on August 15th, 2005. Soldiers went from house to house ordering residents to leave, but there were many who refused. As some soldiers started breaking down doors and clashes ensued, other soldiers could be seen sobbing, fighting back tears and even joining the residents in prayers before leaving. Six settlements were evacuated by 14,000 Israeli soldiers, some Jewish families chose to light their homes on fire so as to leave the Palestinians with nothing. Settlers who were blocking the roads pleaded with soldiers to disobey their orders, one woman even set herself on fire in protest, while one group of 15 American Orthodox Jewish boys barricaded themselves in a basement and threatened to light themselves on fire as well. In Kfar Darom, some 300 residents barricaded themselves on the roof of their synagogue, placing barbed wire all around the roof so as to prevent police from penetrating, but they cut through and began forcing residents to flee, but not without violent resistance which saw injuries to both residents and officers. On September 12th, 2005, the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza and closed the Gate of the Kissufim crossing, raising the Israeli flag on their side, while Palestinian forces moved in and raised their flag on the other. The Gazan Commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi declared, “From now on the Palestinian Authority bears responsibility for what happens in the Gaza Strip.” On September 23rd, 2005, the first rockets began launching from Gaza on to Israeli cities and towns, Hamas claiming responsibility and the Palestinian Authority doing practically nothing to stop the attacks. The IDF began carrying out bombing campaigns and targeted assassinations of key Hamas officials, but the rockets continued, and even a suicide bombing in Israel’s coastal city of Netanya in December that same year, the attack happening at a local mall which killed 5 people. Legislation from the Knesset (seat of Israeli Government in Jerusalem) required the former Gaza residents to be compensated for the loss of their homes, lands and businesses. Israeli families and their youths who had lived in the Gaza region for 2-5 consecutive years were to receive financial compensation and resettled throughout Israel, most having the option to build their own homes either in Galilee in the North or the Negev region in the South. Farmers were to receive their choice of farmlands as well, but only in exchange for reduced monetary compensation. The compensation rate for the land ran at about $202,000 per acre, and homes per square meter. Also taxes on business owners were reduced from 10 to 5%. The total cost of the compensation amounted to 3.8 billion shekels, that’s about $870 million. An increase in the number of compensation claims after the withdrawal from Gaza amounted to another 1.5 billion shekels, that’s about $250 million added. The Knesset was to pay a total of $176 million to evacuated residents and an additional $66 million to business owners. To many of these families however, Gush Katif and the other Gazan communities were their homes where they had lived for nearly 40 years, the compensation seemed meaningless. From their perspective, they sacrificed everything for the sake of making peace with the Palestinians, an agreement which the PA and Hamas never honored and only increased their terror activities in the years following. It has been 16 years since Israel withdrew from Gaza. In 2007 Hamas won elections and chased the PA’s Fatah out of the strip, while taking complete control over Gaza. Hamas continued to relentlessly pursue their charter’s stated goal of destroying the Jewish State, and they found allies with the radical Islamic regime of Iran and their terror proxies such as Islamic Jihad, which is another terror group that operates along-side Hamas within the Gaza Strip. In 2008 the endless barrage of rocket attacks on cities like Sderot led to Israeli retaliatory conflicts such as Operation Cast Lead. In November of 2012, Hamas once again ramped up its armed struggle against Israel, leading to Israel launching Operation Pillar of Defense. And in the Summer of 2014, Operation Protective Edge was launched to once again quell Gazan rocket fire, and stop further kidnappings and murders of Israeli soldiers and civilians. In May of 2018 former President Donald Trump officially opened the US Embassy in Jerusalem, sparking intense riots instigated by none other than Hamas and Islamic Jihad, prompting angry mobs of Palestinians wielding knives, guns, and explosives to charge the security border fence attempting to infiltrate Israel and attack Israeli civilians, they were eventually stopped by the Israel Defense Forces. Today the decision to withdraw from Gaza is seen by many Israelis as a national blunder, leading to several wars and costing the lives of many Palestinians and Israelis. This explains why so many people on both sides remain reluctant and skeptical of the Oslo Accords and their promised Two State Solution, they are afraid to repeat the same mistakes seen in the disengagement from Gaza.

Sources:

https://spiritofzionblog.com/2018/05/21/goliath-vs-david-exposing-the-lies-in-gaza/ [This is my own article from 2018, and three or four of the pictures I took myself, feel free to use them.]

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