The Successful Disengagement

By Einat Wilf and Shany Mor
Published in Hebrew by Haaretz

Twelve years ago, there was a disengagement that succeeded. It was the disengagement in northern Samaria. Many forget that the 2005 disengagement plan included, in addition to the Gaza strip, four isolated settlements in northern Samaria: Ganim and Kadim east of Jenin, and Humash and Sa-Nur south-west of Jenin, on the way to Nablus. During the planning process of the disengagement in the West Bank, the government of Israel decided not to choose four random settlements, but to remove four carefully selected ones that were all concentrated in the Jenin area. The isolated position of these settlements and their geographic concentration meant that, once removed, the entire Jenin district was without Israeli settlements and civilian Israeli presence.

The status of the northern Samaria territory was also maintained. Unlike Gaza, where Israel fully withdrew both the Israeli civilians and the military and turned over the entire territory to exclusive Palestinian control, the northern Samaria territory remained in C status – under full Israeli security and civilian responsibility. But unlike other C areas, this one now had no settlements, and as a result of the disengagement legislation, Israeli citizens have not been allowed to enter the area without specific authorization from the military.

The outcome is that in northern Samaria the military occupation remains, but not the settlements. And it works: Jenin, the “suicide capital” during the bloody mayhem of the second Initifada, is now a calm and prosperous city. Jenin supplies nearly no terrorists, including during the recent waves of individuals attacks. The Palestinian residents in the Jenin area in all the sectors – A, B and C – enjoy lives, that even if not characterized by full political sovereignty, are mostly free of friction with various aspect of Israeli military control. As a result, on the Israeli side, the residents of Afula are not subject to the security threats typical of those living around Gaza, or even in Jerusalem.

The situation in northern Samaria is proof that if Israel removes isolated settlements in the midst of Arab population, while retaining operational freedom for the military, one can carry out a disengagement that does not end like Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Twelve years after disengagement, northern Samaria fulfills the promise of “we are here and they are there”, while maintaining the security of Israel’s citizens.

The northern disengagement is an unequivocal success, and for the annexationist right, that’s a problem. The annexationist right seeks a security cover for its messianic annexationist schemes. It therefore prefers that when it comes to the future of the West Bank, the Israeli public will be under the mistaken impression that is faces only two alternatives: all or nothing, military occupation with settlements, or raining rockets on Ben Gurion and no settlers.

But there is another model for the future of the West Bank, and even a successful one – the civilians leave, the military doesn’t. The northern Samaria disengagement proves that the choice does not have to be all or nothing. It is possible to say yes to the military presence and no to the civilian one. Israelis who insist on the right of Israeli citizens to security, and cast serious doubts over the benefits of a military withdrawal from the West Bank, don’t have to be therefore recruited over to the cause of the settlements, and certainly not the ones not adjacent to the Green Line.

The promotion of a political alternative to the annexationist right requires distinguishing the issue of Israel’s freedom of military operation in the West Bank from the that of the presence of Israeli settlers, especially in areas not adjacent to the Green Line. The person who seeks to lead the political alternative to the annexationist right, should adopt the successful northern Samaria disengagement model and promote its implementation across the West Bank. “Military-yes, Settlements-no” is the best current proven operational model that exists that secures Israel’s citizens within the Green Line and in the adjacent settlements, and provides reasonable lives for the Palestinians in the West Bank. When the Palestinians finally and truly renounce their struggle against the equal right of the Jewish people to liberty and sovereignty in part of its ancient homeland, they will gain full sovereignty and liberty for themselves in the other part.