Herzog: Gaza disengagement was ‘a mistake’ for security

Opposition leader says he opposes unilateral measures but pullout was ‘essential’ to prevent binational state

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on July 14, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on July 14, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on Tuesday said the Gaza disengagement was “a mistake” from a security perspective, but an “essential” step in preventing Israel from becoming a binational state.

Speaking at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Gaza pullout, Herzog said he opposes unilateral overtures and that any future territorial compromises to the Palestinians must be the result of a peace accord.

“Without a doubt, from a security perspective, the disengagement was a mistake,” Herzog said, adding that he had made similar comments in 2006 and 2007.

“I don’t believe in unilateral moves, from a policy perspective — only a [peace] agreement,” the opposition leader, who in 2005 served as housing minister, said.

Under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, Israel evacuated the 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in August 2005 and handed over control of the enclave to the Palestinians.

Hamas took control of the Strip in the 2007, giving rise to three conflicts between the Palestinian terror group and the IDF in six years and thousands of rockets fired on Israeli cities.

Despite his opposition to the evacuation, Herzog stressed that Israel must ultimately reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and relinquish territory to make way for a Palestinian state.

Israel must negotiate for a final accord, “so that Israel doesn’t end up a Jewish-Arab state,” he said.

In terms of preventing the loss of Israel’s Jewish majority, the disengagement from the 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was “essential,” he said.

“I don’t think it was a mistake in a demographic sense. In a demographic sense, it was essential. And I don’t believe the citizens of Israel want to go back and resettle Gaza,” Herzog said.

A survey by the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies, a think tank, on Monday indicated 63 percent of respondents say they were against the Gaza evacuation at the time, while 51% say Israeli civilians should move back into the coastal enclave.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) also oppose evacuating West Bank Jewish settlements, while 53% support such a move under certain circumstances, such as a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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