Gush Katif
A woman prays during the evacuation of Gush Katif in 2005.. (photo credit:ILLUSTRATIVE/RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)


Former prime minister Ariel Sharon pulled out of Gaza in 2005 to save the settlement blocs and to improve Israel’s security, said Dov Weisglass, a close confidante of Sharon and his former chief of staff.

Weisglass spoke at a half-day seminar to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Gaza Disengagement that was held at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.

Weisglass attempted to explain how it was that Ariel Sharon, known as the father of the settlement movement, decided in 2003 to pull out of Gaza, a move that led to the destruction of 21 settlements there.

At the time Sharon held a stormy meeting with the settler leaders in which he explained to them that the dream of a Greater Israel, in which Israel held on to all of the West Bank and Gaza was no longer possible.

“We have lost his battle,’ Sharon told them, ‘but if you let me work, I will save the settlement blocs, where 80 percent of the population lives and if you continue to obstruct this, we will lose even this,” recalled Weisglass.

He added, “this is what is happening now.”

In exchange for pulling out of Gaza, Sharon secured a pledge from former US President George Bush that in any final status agreement for a two-state solution, Palestinian refugees would not return to Israel, but rather to their newly established state, said Weisglass.

In that same letter Bush promised Sharon that the settlement blocs would be included within Israel’s final borders, he said.

He referenced the April 2004 letter, in which both pledges were made. In that letter, Bush wrote, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”

On Thursday in Herzliya, Weisglass said that as a result of the Gaza pullout, the US and indeed the world recognized Israel’s right to the settlement blocs. “We came to a clear understanding with them. Since the US president saw that this territory was Israeli territory, we have build thousands of units in Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim.”

He added that it was the “single biggest diplomatic achievement since 1948.”

Since then, Weisglass said, all the diplomatic gains Sharon made for Israel under the Disengagement have since been lost.

Sharon, Weisglass said, formulated the Disengagement plan after he understood that the international community did not recognize Israel’s territorial claims over the pre-1967 lines.

“Sharon told me that anyone who believes the occupation can continue forever, is wrong. Anyone who think we can hold under occupation millions of Palestinians, is making a serious mistake,” Weisglass said.

When Sharon first formulated the Disengagement plan in the fall of 2003, Yasser Arafat was the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, said Weisglass. Sharon believed he was one of Israel’s worst enemies and refused to negotiate with him, Weissglass said. But after his death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas became the President of the Palestinian Authority.

Once Abbas was in power, Weisglass said, “Disengagement was done in full coordination with the Palestinians. All the moves were executed in total coordination with Abu Mazen.”

He added that the Hamas takeover of Gaza after Disengagement, was “the most difficult moment for me. It was totally unexpected.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post