I was cheered to read David Hazony’s report that terrorism against Israel hit a new low in 2007, with both Israeli and Palestinian deaths down. That would seem to vindicate one of the most controversial Israeli decisions in recent years: to evacuate the Gaza Strip. That was something that the Israeli right-wing fought against, arguing that such a unilateral concession would encourage more terrorism.
I wrote in this Los Angeles Times op-ed in August 2005 that the withdrawal was the right move even though it would undoubtedly turn Gaza into a “Hamastan.” I argued that the evacuation would regain the initiative, strategically and morally, for the Jewish state, and that Israel would actually be more free to respond to terrorism from Gaza if it were no longer under “occupation” but the territory of a sovereign state.
The growing number of rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel has led me recently to start wondering whether I was wrong. But the figures Hazony cites suggest that the rockets are much less deadly than the suicide bombers of old. Moreover, Israel is starting to respond more effectively to those provocations, with, for instance, targeted strikes on terrorist masterminds.
In retrospect, the removal of Israeli settlers does not seem to have done any real damage to Israeli security interests. That doesn’t mean, however, that Israel can entirely separate itself from developments in Gaza. It appears likely that the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to have to make incursions to root out terrorist networks. But while such missions continue, the IDF no longer has to worry about protecting isolated Jewish settlements. That, I think, is all to the good.