“What will we have gained by destroying thriving communities, dividing Israeli society, and embittering some of our most idealistic citizens?’’ one thoughtful Israeli commentator, Yossi Klein Halevi, wrote at the time in The Jerusalem Post. “The most obvious . . . gain is what we will lose: We will be freeing ourselves from more than a million Palestinians.’’ Many Israelis — and many supporters of Israel internationally — bought this argument, persuaded, perhaps, by the Sharon government’s sweeping vision of the blessings that would flow from so radical an act of ethnic self-cleansing. “It will be good for us and will be good for the Palestinians,’’ forecast then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who would succeed Sharon a few months later. “It will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East.’’ Olmert prayed that with disengagement, “a new morning of great hope will emerge in our part of the world,’’ and that Israelis and Palestinians together would make the Middle East “what it was destined to be from the outset, a paradise for all the world.’’It didn't really work, did it. I especially like the part where Israelis - myself included, obviously - expected the dismantling of settlements and the evacuation of all military forces to have some impact on Israel's international standing, some recognition of Israel's good intentions. I can't say why I expected this outcome, since recent history had resoundingly disproved the thesis that Israeli actions might convince Israel's detractors to hate it less, but there it is. I thought this time would be different. Ha ha.
The fruit of disengagement was not the “new morning of great hope’’ that Sharon and Olmert — and their countless enablers in the West — envisioned. Instead, it was an erosion of respect for Israeli strength and deterrence. It was the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and the Israel-Hamas war that began at the end of 2008. It was the entrenchment of Iran, through its clients Hamas and Hezbollah, on Israel’s northern and southern borders. It was the burning of Gaza’s synagogues and the trashing of its famous greenhouses. It was the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, who has been a hostage in Gaza now for more than four years. It was the further blackening of Israel’s international reputation. It was the immiseration of Gaza’s Palestinians under a fundamentalist Hamas dictatorship.I disagree with Jacoby, however, when near the end of his column he explains that most Israelis have learned the lesson, and won't be getting caught in any more wishful thinking. They will. I will, too. Whenever anyone offers us a plausible way to reduce the chances for additional wars, to diminish our domination of the Palestinians, and to gain approval of the international community, we'll take it. That's human nature, to rationalize that past bad experiences won't apply to a promising new opportunity.
I also specifically disagree with him that the disengagement from Gaza was such a bad thing. It wasn't. In spite of what many fools say, we don't occupy Gaza; 1.5 million Gazans are no longer part of the demographic balance of people under Israeli rule that was slowly tilting against the Jews; there's a clear and recognized border between Israel and Gaza, which is mostly closed; and since everyone knew that someday we'd have to pull the settlers out of there and it would be painful, at least now it's already done.