Rarely have all the premises of a political undertaking so critical, with such decisive long-range strategic consequences, managed in so short a period of time to appear so outrageous and unconsidered.
Despite everything, the prevailing reality today is just about word-for-word what disengagement opponents predicted with regard to the dangers, and proves wrong just about every promise made by supporters of that plan just six months ago.
Half-a-year after Gaza, there is no avoiding the decisive conclusion that disengagement was, from the get-go, a tragic, pre-ordained failure.
Not one of the positive things that were supposed to come about due to disengagement has come to pass. Similarly, not one security issue that the pullout was supposed to solve has been solved.
Before our very eyes, all the prophecies of doom are coming true, and all the rose-colored predictions have been forgotten. This is true with respect to every possible issue: Security, politics, economics, and perhaps most importantly, ethics and morals.
Security: The facts speak for themselves. In stark contrast to hopes that the pullout, the destruction of the settlement enterprise and the end of friction between the IDF and the local population would lead to an end of (at least a reduction in) Qassam rocket attacks from evacuated areas, the rain of rockets on Israeli cities and population centers has grown stronger, even reaching the outskirts of Ashkelon, with its wide range of essential strategic installations.
Even without the latest threats from terrorist groups that they have improved the range and power of their warheads, we would have known that expanded arches of destruction and an expanded radius of destruction were unavoidable. Yet no official source has offered any explanation about how we will deal with them, apart from "reinforcing roofs."
Even the Palestinians' updating of their arsenal was entirely predictable. Only a complete sucker would have believed that the Egyptian troops who replaced IDF soldiers along the southern Gaza border would move to stop the steady flow of weaponry smuggled into the evacuated Strip, smuggling that stands to alter the critical strategic balance.
As a result of abandoning the Philadelphi Route and in light of the bizarre assumption that Arab soldiers would fight the Palestinians to protect the Zionist entity – Israel's western border, from Gaza to Eilat, a long border that is relatively hard to secure – is now exposed to terrorist infiltrations from Sinai.
Politically, the picture is no less chilling. Many people warned that leaving Gaza would strengthen extreme elements amongst the Palestinians. Disengagement architects said the move would strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and the moderates.
Then came the Palestinian elections, and –voila! – "More than 80 percent of Palestinians view the pullout as a victory for the armed struggle," said Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki.
Real result of the pullout
This is bad news for anyone who believed we could reach an agreement with the Palestinians via negotiations. For all who believed in an agreement – the Palestinians will now have little to offer at the negotiating table. And for those who never believed– Israel will now have an even tougher time convincing the Palestinians to abandon the violence and terrorism most of them believe is the only thing that's ever proven itself to "work."
Nothing proves the complete failure of disengagement more than the statements of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself and the stunning U-turn he was forced to do overnight. Until just a few weeks ago, he sang the praises of the "process and diplomatic opportunity" created by disengagement.
But immediately after Hamas won the elections – the real result of the pullout – Olmert suddenly changed his tune. No process, no diplomatic opportunity. No partner, no one to talk with. And all on the heels of his speech to the Herzliya Conference.
Economically, too, all the predictions have come false. To remind: pullout supporters promised a windfall of resources, supposedly freed up by the end of the occupation, that would be available to upgrade infrastructure, fight poverty and develop poor areas.
But as time goes on, the massive costs associated with implementing disengagement and dealing with the repercussions become clearer and clearer. As Qassam attacks on Gaza-area settlements grow, demands for reinforced homes grow from residents of those towns. And the more the rockets' range increases, the number of settlements requiring reinforced roofs will also grow.
A blow to the quality of life
The water commissioner's office warns that disengagement created serious threats to the nation's water, threats such as raw sewage from Gaza that could shut down the Ashkelon desalination plant.
They also fear that unsupervised pumping in the northern West Bank will lead to increased salinity of the water and drying up of the entire region (including northern valleys on the other side of the green line). This will strike a blow to the quality of life for residents, will destroy both agriculture and tourism and will do away with special development plans for these regions.
According to the water commissioner, dealing with these threats will require an investment of billions of dollars.
It should be noted that these costs are on top of the cost of the pullout itself; of the costs required to build replacement housing and for creating replacement incomes; and of the cost of turning a creative, productive community that contributed much to the country into a beaten society requiring welfare support.
Then there is the cost of securing the western Negev, and the rise in defense costs due to new threats created by disengagement. For instance, the "rising wave of terror" and the "motivation to carry out terror attacks" the defense minister warned about this week.
Of course, one need not be an economics professor to understand that every shekel spent on covering the new costs created by disengagement will come from the coffers of the war on poverty, from developing a constantly under attack Negev and building infrastructure.
Morally, the toughest and longest-lasting blow struck by disengagement is to our national, Zionist ethos. Something happened to the destiny of the security forces of the Jewish state.
Instead of recognizing the duty to defend Jews wherever they are, simply because they are Jews, soldiers and police officers were ordered to evict Jews from their homes, in order to appease their would-be killers.
In doing so, the country trampled any moral claim it might have had that the world not abandon Israel to its enemies. For if Israel was willing to withdraw its support for the residents of Gush Katif and to abandon them to appease the enemy, what possible moral basis could there be for the world, especially the Western world, not to withdraw its support for Israel and to abandon this country in order to appease the Arab and Muslim world?
Furthermore, if the country abandoned the Philadelphi Strip – "a vital security interest" that so many young men gave their lives to defend – why should they believe it when, in future, we are asked to risk their lives to defend some other strategic interest?
Dr. Martin Sherman is a political scientist at Tel Aviv University