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Should Israel give up land again?

Palestinians enter the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, September 12, 2005. (Photo: Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

We all remember the 2005 heart-wrenching scenes of soldiers forcibly removing more than 8,000 residents from their homes in Gush Katif, located on the southwestern edge of the Gaza Strip. Although it was then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to evacuate the area, in the hope that peace would be achieved by Israel giving up land, most of us were skeptical that such an act would accomplish its aspirational goal.

A large part of that move was also intended to improve Israel’s international status, which has never been in good condition. But now that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested Israel give up parts of the north in exchange for Hezbollah forces to leave the border, this might be a really good time to take a look back, some 19 years ago and see how that worked out for us.

Although a significant amount of infrastructure was left in the Gaza Strip area, including roads and electricity, enabling Palestinians to build their own community, none of that happened. In fact, it was just a year later when Hamas became the newly-elected government of Gaza, which explains why nothing ever developed there. 

Unlike the thriving agricultural community of Gush Katif, where greenhouses produced herbs and vegetables as well as a booming dairy cow industry – yielding an estimated $23 billion of assets per year – under the Palestinians, the area was, instead, turned into a military training camp from where rockets were launched at Israel. Rather than building schools, hospitals, industry and homes, a network of tunnels was constructed, allowing for weapons to be transported and providing easy access into Israel’s southern border communities.

As one former Gush Katif resident said: “When there are no settlements, there is no military to keep the peace. When there is no military keeping the peace, deadly wars take place. 

In short, this territory, encompassing 41 kilometers (25 miles), was turned into a terror land mass, from where destruction could be launched. Now, Blinken is defying the definition of insanity which is that a different outcome will happen when doing the very same thing that, although previously tried, bitterly failed.

Now, the diplomatic solution, being floated by the U.S., in the hope of avoiding an all-out war, would involve the withdrawal of the northern territory known as Shebaa Farms and the Kfar Shuba hills. In return, Hezbollah forces will be obligated to remove its presence from the border. But what is the significance of those two areas that Israel would have to relinquish?

Shebaa Farms is a 5.5-mile area of land located at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syria border but seen to be part of the Golan Heights and, therefore, has been under Israel’s control since it was seized in 1967. If Hezbollah were to take that area, it would end up having strategic control over Israeli northern cities, placing them in grave danger.

Likewise, Kfar Shuba is militarily strategic, inasmuch as it overlooks Israeli territory. This collective area, under Israel’s control, assures safety and security for the north, but under Lebanese control, it would only bring the risk of another Oct. 7th possibility to Israel’s northern residents, and haven’t we had enough of that?

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel warned that “every time Israel retreated from territory, it became a base for terror and bloodshed – from Gaza to Lebanon to the Red Sea.”

It is against this backdrop that Gamliel makes her case, opposing the idea of a two-state solution. Her belief is that this is the time to “try new solutions,” part of a speech she gave last Thursday at a conference held in Jerusalem, entitled: “Lessons from Gaza – an end to the idea of two states.” Gamliel reminded everyone that “Iran, through its proxies, including Hamas, is responsible for all the terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East,” citing the 2005 disengagement as having been “the greatest failure.” She went on to say that every solution has been put to the test, including “enrichment, conflict management and building high walls,” none of which worked. 

Gamliel's fear is what happens the day after Hamas is gone. As she puts it: “We will still have about 2 million people, many of whom voted for Hamas and celebrated the massacre of innocent men, women and children.  Gaza is a breeding ground for extremism. Gaza is a place devoid of hope, stolen by the genocidal terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups.”

Of course, it’s hard to argue with her assessment, which has been proven to be correct. So why would anyone, including the U.S. Biden administration whose envoy, Blinken, thinks something different would happen with our northern neighbors, who are just as motivated as Hamas to put an end to the Jewish homeland? 

To repeat the mistakes of the past would be lunacy and the classic definition of insanity – expecting another outcome when implementing the same solution that brought disaster and a brutal massacre.

No one has ever accused Israel of seizing land, rightly belonging to them anyway, and then constructing terror sites in that same area which was then used to bring about the destruction of another nation. Yet, that is exactly what takes place when Israel willingly returns land.

But none of that should surprise anyone, because the stark polar differences between Israel and her neighbors are completely recognizable. Israel, whose existential purpose is to build, provide, develop and share whatever it produces, is undeniable since that is the result of her 75-year record of achievements to benefit mankind. It doesn’t change the fact that the nation hated and reviled by much of the world still wants to bless the earth’s inhabitants.

In contrast, Israel’s neighbors want to dominate them, subject them to a religion that demands total allegiance to a god that commands the eradication of infidels (those who refuse to bow to Allah) and keep them in full subservience. Theirs is an ideology of slaves and masters who perpetuate the cycle of bondage, disavowing the thought of freedom and liberty.

So why should Israel give up any land in the hope that things will change? As the Hebrew saying goes, “Hayiti b’seret hazeh kvar,” or "I have already been in this movie."

Gamliel’s message is: “Open the door. I say to the international community, no one is pushing or forcing anybody out, but surely you can’t be indifferent to their suffering. Just open the door and let those who wish to join the hundreds of thousands of Gazans who have already left voluntarily in the last few years. It is an obligation of leadership to propose solutions and not just circle back to the same tired ideas and cliches.”

I, for one, think she’s right!  The question is, will those doors be opened or will they remain shut?

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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