..."What will we have gained by destroying thriving communities, dividing Israeli society, and embittering some of our most idealistic citizens?" one thoughtful Israeli commentator, Yossi Klein Halevi, wrote at the time in The Jerusalem Post. "The most obvious . . . gain is what we will lose: We will be freeing ourselves from more than a million Palestinians."
Many Israelis -- and many supporters of Israel internationally -- bought this argument, persuaded, perhaps, by the Sharon government's sweeping vision of the blessings that would flow from so radical an act of ethnic self-cleansing. "It will be good for us and will be good for the Palestinians," forecast then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was to succeed Sharon a few months later. "It will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East." Olmert prayed that with disengagement, "a new morning of great hope will emerge in our part of the world," and that Israelis and Palestinians together would make the Middle East "what it was destined to be from the outset, a paradise for all the world."
Had any of this actually come to pass, the trauma and destruction of the Gaza expulsion might have been justifiable. In fact, disengagement was a staggering failure, a disaster in every respect..."Howzat 'disengagement' workin' out for you?" one can imagine a folksy, avuncular talk show host querying five years later. With Hamas at the helm, Iran poised to lob a nuke or two, flotilla fatheads plotting their next PR victory at the expense of the "mean" Israelis and an American president who is not a Muslim but who often plays one on TV, the only possible answer is: "Not so well."