Lapid launches into his absurd apologia, by raising the currently fashionable – albeit flimsy – argument so eagerly embraced today by other unrepentant apologists for the Disengagement: That the high-trajectory shelling from Gaza and the subterranean smuggling into Gaza existed before the Disengagement.
Yet the statistics provided to support this claim – without stipulating their source – appear to be greatly at odds with the documented data on the pre- and post-Disengagement realities. While Lapid states that: "In (the) four years – before disengagement! – more than 5,000 mortar shells and Qassams were fired at Israeli communities," the official site of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quotes entirely different figures - based on a detailed study composed by Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) run by veterans of Israel's intelligence community. According to the study, in the entire seven year period (2001-2007) a total of around 5,000 mortars shells and Qassam were fired from Gaza - of which almost 2,500 were fired in 27 months (Sept 2005-Nov 2007.)
However, in spite of Lapid's faulty data, he is correct in stating that the bombardments and the tunneling did exist prior to the Disengagement. However, least we be tempted to accept his equally faulty inferences, we should recall two factors, which some seem desperately anxious to conceal. These relate to matters of the scale and of the origins of current Palestinian military prowess.
As for the former, any dispassionate observer of events is easily able to discern that Disengagement brought a quantum leap in the scale of the activities of Palestinian terror in terms of operational execution, logistical capabilities and political empowerment.
This is clearly reflected in a paper published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) Israel's War to Halt Palestinian Rocket Attacks, authored by Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, Dore Gold. It points out that although:
"Qassam rocket fire did not start with Israel's Gaza disengagement...nonetheless, after disengagement the number of confirmed rocket strikes against Israel increased by more than 500 percent …The disengagement … led to the loss of Israeli control over the Philadelphi route …allowing for a significant increase in the range and quantity of rockets in the Palestinian arsenal. What is dramatically new in the rocket attacks in 2008 are the range and quantity of rockets being fired."
With regard to the enhanced logistic capabilities, again the study concedes that "Palestinian organizations had used tunnels in past years to smuggle weaponry into Gaza…" but since the Disengagement "the scale of this smuggling mushroomed". It points out that:
“As a result, the quantities of explosives and foreign-produced, longer-range rockets that could enter Gazan territory increased dramatically. Yuval Diskin, the head of the Israel Security Agency, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in early 2006 that the amount of explosives smuggled into the Gaza Strip … had grown drastically - by more than 300 percent.”
At the same hearing Diskin also revealed that "since the disengagement… between $50 -$70 million in cash has been smuggled into Gaza in order to finance the Hamas terrorist operations."
Disengagement a staggering failureAs to the issue of political empowerment, while there may be some truth to Lapid's contention that "Hamas did not take power in Gaza because of the disengagement…(but rather) because of the American insistence to hold free elections," he ignores the wider political impact of the disengagement that bestowed enhanced status and prestige on the radical Islamist movement, which was credited with coercing Israel into retreat.
As the JCPA paper points out: "The 2005 Gaza disengagement provided Hamas with a sense of empowerment and self-confidence …Politically, this led to the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections in January 2006." Moreover, even if Hamas's electoral victory was not entirely due to the Disengagement - since it also won in the "West Bank" - it is highly improbable that without it, Hamas’ violent take-over of Gaza in mid-2007 would have occurred. Indeed it is widely accepted among Israel's security establishment that the only thing preventing a similar overthrow of Abbas’ Fatah-regime in the "West-Bank" is the presence of the IDF there!
But perhaps one of Lapid's most breathtakingly brazen statements is: "…there is a possibility – and it is even a realistic one – that had it not been for the disengagement, our situation today would have been much worse." It is even more galling in the light of a previous pronouncement of his:
"We withdrew from Lebanon and Hizbullah is attacking us from there. We withdrew from Gaza and it is from there that the terror groups are attacking us. The only quiet areas right now…are Judea and Samaria. Even the most extreme leftists are reconsidering: maybe it isn’t about the occupation after all."
The difference in the severity of the realities confronting Israel in the pre- Disengagement era and post- Disengagement one are so clear and stark, that to attempt to suggest that there is any equivalence between them is a ludicrous as to suggest that a mild cold and terminal pneumonia are similar simply because they can both be diagnosed "viral infections."
Disengagement has been a staggering failure – at least in the conventional sense of the word. All the envisioned benefits that its proponents advanced as reasons for its implementation have not materialized. All the ominous forebodings of the dangers that its opponents warned of as reasons for eschewing its implementation – and which were scornfully dismissed by its proponents – have indeed materialized. The ascendancy of the radicals, the expanding threat to Israel's civilian population, the emerging strategic dimension of the weapons in the hands of radicals…
Lapid would do well to acknowledge this – for as a public figure this would be a far more honorable choice than his ongoing shabby and shady attempts to avoid admission of error. But wait! On second thought perhaps Lapid is right after all. Perhaps for him the Disengagement is not a failure. Perhaps for him the Disengagement did attain its intended goal. Perhaps - as he as already admitted in an earlier article – his original fiery support for the Disengagement was just a hoax. Perhaps, as he admits in that article, the motivating drive behind the Disengagement was not a desire to further the interest of nation but to undermine the interest of the settlers.
Perhaps Lapid should re-examine the text of his final paragraph in which he assails the critics of the Disengagement: “they don’t care, because they are not interested in the truth, but rather, in the opportunity to exploit the pain and sorrow over today’s victims in order to avert the next evacuation. And to that end, it is ok to lie, and to smear, and to come up with false arguments
If he were to replace the word "avert" with the word "induce," he would discover how perfectly he has described…himself!