The end of the eight day bombardment of Israel's civilian population by hundreds of rockets indiscriminately fired from the Gaza Strip has caused many respected commentators such as Caroline Glick to roundly criticise former Israeli Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon - for having unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2004 by withdrawing its army and 8000 Israeli citizens - many of whom had lived there for almost 40 years.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post on 22 November Ms Glick stated:
As for that withdrawal from Gaza, just like the phony peace process with the PLO and the strategically demented withdrawal from south Lebanon, the withdrawal from Gaza was a self-evidently insane policy. It was obvious that it would lead to the strengthening of Palestinian terrorist groups and so put Israel’s population centers in striking range of their missiles...
... To force this mad initiative through, Sharon had to explicitly disavow the platform he was elected to implement. Sharon won the 2003 elections by pledging never to surrender Gaza.
After he betrayed his voters, Sharon demonized and, when possible, fired everyone in positions of power and influence who opposed him.
He called a referendum of Likud members to vote on his plan, and when his opponents won the vote overwhelmingly, he ignored it. He fired Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, then IDF chief of General Staff. He fired his cabinet ministers. He castigated as “rebels” his party members who opposed his plan."
Was Sharon's decision indeed an "insane policy" or rather a brilliant gambit by Sharon with Israel's long term national interests uppermost in Sharon's mind?
Israel has certainly paid an enormous price in deaths, injuries and ongoing trauma resulting from more than 8000 rockets being indiscriminately lobbed from Gaza into a target area covering one million of Israel's civilian population since Sharon's fateful decision eight years ago. The civilian population of Gaza has also suffered as Israel has responded to protect its civilian population against such attacks.
A bewildering number of terrorist groups has since sprung up in Gaza like mushrooms - all hell bent on indiscriminately terrorising Israeli Jews and Arabs as well as foreign workers in pursuit of their heinous objective of wiping the Jewish state off the map.
The Hamas Government has done nothing to prevent such rocket attacks against the civilian population of Israel - initiated in many instances from schools,mosques, homes and hospitals located within Gaza's civilian community - all of which actions constitute war crimes under international law.
However Caroline Glick and those other commentators joining her on the Sharon blame game bandwagon all fail to acknowledge the written commitment Sharon obtained from American President George W Bush on 14 April 2004 to enable such Israeli evacuation from Gaza to occur.
President Bush was well aware of the risks Israel's unilateral disengagement would involve - and yet at the same time he recognized the opportunity such disengagement would offer to progress his Roadmap when he told Prime Minister Sharon:
We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared, under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza, and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank.
These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002 vision, and make a real contribution toward peace. ...The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure you on several points.
David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at www.jordanispalestine.blogspot.com.