ZOA: Israelis & US Supporters Of 2005 GAZA Withdrawal Should Apologize To Israeli Public, World Jewry & GAZA Jews
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called upon Members of the Knesset (MKs) and other Israeli officials, journalists and Jewish leaders who gave their support to the 2005 Gaza/northern Samaria unilateral withdrawal to apologize to the Israeli electorate, which had voted overwhelmingly against that proposal in the January 2003 elections (when then-Labor leader, Amram Mitzna, lost decisively to Likud after campaigning strongly on a platform of unilateral withdrawal), as well as to the Jewish people and the uprooted Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria, whose lives have been turned upside down.
Since the unilateral retreat from Gaza, the terror groups have enjoyed a massive boost in morale and Palestinian support, Gaza has been given over to terror groups who have smuggled in huge amounts of offensive weaponry and launched thousands of rockets upon Israel, while Al Qaeda affiliates have established themselves in the territory which Hamas seized by force from Mahmoud Abbas' Fateh in 2007. Such an apology should include a public recognition that one-sided concessions and withdrawals to an unreconstructed Palestinian Authority (PA) can only lead to more violence, not peace.
In a meeting with American Jewish leaders at Blair House in Washington D. C., on April 13, 2005, before the implementation of the unilateral withdrawal, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told ZOA's President, Morton Klein , in front of 30 other American Jewish leaders, that the withdrawal would "reduce terror and give Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. It will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces." He also said to Klein that once Israel removes the Gaza Jewish communities and leaves Gaza, any military need to intervene in Gaza would be acted upon immediately and with overwhelming force and because of Israel's withdrawal, the whole world would then support anything we need to do. It is now clear that the very opposite has come to pass. Israel waited three years after the Gaza withdrawal and 7,000 missiles later before responding to protect its citizens, and yet the world and the United Nations, from day one, has condemned Israel repeatedly and continuously for her actions and pressured her to stop.
The following is a sampling of comments by Israeli officials who supported unilateral withdrawal, saying it would boost Israeli security and reduce terrorism:
· Then-Defense Minister, current Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz: "I anticipate that the level of terrorism will drop after the disengagement and after pragmatic Arab forces take control." (Israel National News , July 2, 2004); "I'm convinced that the process is necessary and correct. It will give more security to the citizens of Israel , and will reduce the burden carried by the security forces. It will extract the situation out of stagnation and will open the door to another reality, which will allow talks towards co-existence. (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Current Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu: "Let there be no mistake. On the Referendum, I will support the plan." (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Likud MK Yuval Steinitz: "I think the plan, with these restrictions, is trustworthy. It's not an easy plan, but it has a good chance of improving our geo-strategic situation." (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Then Likud MK, now Kadima MK Meir Shitreet: "Some argue that there will be a threat, threat of escaping, threat to the Negev communities. I have never heard such a ridiculous claim. (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Labor MK Dani Yatom: "Before the withdrawal from Lebanon , the Intelligence Directorate also threatened us with Katyushas reaching Hadera and we see what actually happened. I estimate, and my estimate is just as valid as those that threaten us with horrors, that after we leave the Gaza Strip, terrorism will decrease, not increase." (Maariv , February 5, 2004).
· Labor MK Orit Noked: "I want to believe that as a result of the eviction from Gaza , moderate Palestinian factions will grow stronger, terrorism will be reduced." (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Labor MK Ofer Pines: "I want to thanks [then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the unilateral withdrawal policy] for he gives me and my wife hope that my son, when recruited, won't have to serve in Gaza Strip." (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
· Meretz MK Ran Cohen: "The Disengagement is good for security. Right wing representatives spoke of Qassem rockets flying here or there. I'm telling you, if you want to spare both Sderot and Ashkelon, we have to understand that if we won't get out of Gaza Strip, in two-three years, or even a year, the range will extend to Ashkelon ." (Speech to the Knesset, October 2004).
Other Likud MKs, including current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, current foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat also voted in favor of the unilateral withdrawal policy.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "These statements which have been proved so disastrously mistaken, should not be forgotten as we contemplate the past three years of rapid security deterioration in the southern part of Israel . Whole cities like Sderot have seen a third of their population move away despairing of their safety and a normal life amid constant rockets, sirens, and life beneath ground in bunkers. Ashkelon with its vital national infrastructures has been struck repeatedly with missiles. Israel 's second largest port, Ashdod , is being hit. A missile has now reached the outskirts of Tel Aviv. About a million Israelis now lives in daily fear and insecurity from the rocket attacks that increased exponentially since the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, did not end with the so-called ceasefire of last year, and were resumed with renewed intensity prior to Israel's launching of Operation Cast Lead on December 27.
"In these circumstances, it is high time for all MKs, journalists and others, regardless of party affiliation, who supported the process of unilateral withdrawal to apologize to the Israeli electorate. They should explain that they now understand the disastrous consequences of unilateral concessions to an unreconstructed Palestinian terror regime. They should acknowledge and apologize for the fact that implementing the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria deeply harmed the lives of the 10,000 Jewish men, women and children who were forcibly uprooted from their homes, synagogues, schools and businesses in Gaza for no gain at all and that, as a result, peace is further away than ever.
"Doing so would help restore public trust in the Knesset and the political system and be the best demonstration of honesty and the willingness of political figures to stand accountable to the electorate for mistaken and failed policies which they advocated. We fully endorse the sentiments expressed today by the distinguished veteran journalist, Nadav Shragai in Haaretz, (the New York Times of Israel) in his piece 'Just say you're sorry' which we reproduce below:
Now, after the war and just before the election whirlwind sucks in our politicians once again, it would be appropriate for many of them to go out of their way and visit the mobile-home sites where those uprooted from Gush Katif live. This way they can tell them one small thing: I'm sorry.
Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Shaul Mofaz and Benjamin Netanyahu , the Israel Defense Forces and the police should do this - they, their agents and everyone else who initiated, implemented and aided in using force to uproot 10,000 people from their homes in Gush Katif and Northern Samaria , maliciously and without any real purpose. Everyone who saw some good in the evil of the disengagement and evil in the good of Gush Katif has turned light into darkness and darkness into light. At the very least, they are obligated to make this small apology.
This includes the judges of the High Court of Justice who did not even bother to visit Gush Katif and made do with defense experts acting on behalf of the state 'because that is the position of the court since it was founded.' The justices who ruled as they did because they automatically assumed that such a plan 'improves the security situation' because 'the evacuation reduces the desire of the Palestinians to harm the Israeli population.' It would be appropriate for the honorable justices to take a vacation day as an act of forgiveness and go down south for a close-up look at the results of their decisions.
This also includes the media, which provided a challenge for Ariel Sharon and allowed him to turn a prosperous agricultural land, a world full of communities, synagogues, yeshivas and magnificent educational institutions into piles of rubble. Also the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet security service who never spoke in public what they whispered in the backrooms, and the soldiers and policemen who dragged the pioneers of Kfar Darom and Neveh Dekalim from their houses while raining blows on the demonstrators who understood what would come.
The apology must also include everyone who painted those who warned that the rockets from Gaza would reach Sderot, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva as delusional and opponents of peace. Everyone who promised that they would 'give it to them' after the first Qassam, but in the end cried about the moral and international constraints that prevented them from doing so, and for years abandoned the south. It must include those who took the name of democracy in vain and aided Sharon in deceiving Likud members and breaking his promises to honor Likud's decisions once it became clear to Sharon that the party's members did not agree with him.
You, too, who paid almost no attention to the hundreds of thousands who tried to stop the evil, who paid no attention to those who internalized the lessons of Oslo and warned that we should not give them land and guns again. You who paid no attention to those who warned of the Hamastan state, foresaw exactly the trajectories of the rockets, and understood that this was something we gave away for free, a further disintegration of our power of deterrence and an adrenaline shot for terror.
Now rise and ask for forgiveness from those who paid the highest price, with their bodies, souls and property for your close-mindedness, arrogance and wickedness. Ask for forgiveness from the Gush Katif expellees, the noble souls who did not steal land from anyone, who made the empty dunes bloom as ambassadors of the State of Israel and who turned into the south's security buffer and absorbed over 6,000 Qassams and mortar shells with their bodies and belongings in the last years of Gush Katif.
Ask for forgiveness from those who swore to "win with love" - who believed and sowed until the very last minute; from those who did not raise a hand against the soldiers. Apologize to those who continued to enlist in the IDF and pay the ultimate price even after they were expelled from their houses, because they understood that the state - the national homeland of the Jewish people, even within limited borders - is still bigger than any mistaken and confused government.
There is no way to know if they will forgive you, but you at least need to ask."