On June 6, 2004, Israel’s cabinet approved the plan for disengagement from the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. The Knesset endorsed the plan on October 25, 2004. The following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s public addresses and from cabinet decisions during the past year, plus other principal documents of the Disengagement Plan.

  1. PM Ariel Sharon’s Address to the Fourth Herzliya Conference (Dec 18, 2003)
  2. PM Ariel Sharon answers questions from the foreign press corps in Israel (Jan 11, 2004)
  3. Knesset Speech by PM Sharon on the Disengagement Plan (Mar 15, 2004)
  4. Exchange of letters between PM Sharon and US President Bush (Apr 14, 2004)
  5. Cabinet Communique (Apr 18, 2004)
  6. The Disengagement Plan – General Outline (Apr 18, 2004)
  7. The Revised Disengagement Plan (June 6, 2004)
  8. Excerpt from Speech by PM Sharon after cabinet approval of Disengagement Plan (June 6, 2004)
  9. Cabinet Communique (Oct 24, 2004)
  10. PM Ariel Sharon’s Address to the Knesset – The Vote on the Disengagement Plan (Oct 25, 2004)
  11. PM Ariel Sharon’s Speech to the Conference for Advancement of Export and International Cooperation
    (Nov 11, 2004)
  12. Cabinet Communique (Dec 5, 2004)
  13. Cabinet Communique (Dec 12, 2004)
  14. PM Sharon’s Address to the Fifth Herzliya Conference
    (Dec 16, 2004)
  15. PM Sharon’s statement at the Manufacturers Association Conference (Dec 23, 2004)
  16. Cabinet Communique (Dec 26, 2004)
  17. Cabinet Communique (Jan 2, 2005)
  18. Statement by PM Ariel Sharon at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit (Feb 8, 2005) 
  19. Cabinet Communique (Feb 20, 2005) 
  20. Address by PM Sharon to Conference of Presidents (Feb 20, 2005)
  21. Vice Premier Peres convenes first meeting of disengagement steering committee (Feb 23, 2005)
  22. Relocation of residence into the Gaza Strip & four West Bank communities prohibited (Mar 18/20, 2005)
  23. PM Sharon holds discussion on disengagement preparations (Apr 4, 2005)
  24. Cabinet approves special work procedures for implementation of Disengagement Plan (Apr 17, 2005)
  25. Vice Premier Peres meets with Quartet special envoy on disengagement Wolfensohn (May 3, 2005)
  26. Cabinet decision on agricultural land for the re-establishment of Gaza Strip farms (May 8, 2005)
  27. Prime Minister’s Office statement on approval of Nitzanim plan (May 10, 2005)
  28. Speech by PM Sharon to AIPAC Conference (May 24, 2005)
  29. Discussion held on evacuation of graves from Gush Katif (May 24, 2005)
  30. Disengagement Authority approves resettlement loans (June 1, 2005)
  31. Disengagement Authority sets rules for transfer of agricultural lands to Gush Katif farmers (June 2, 2005)
  32. Address by PM Sharon to the Caesarea 2005 Conference (June 30, 2005)
  33. Vice Premier Peres meets with Special Quartet Envoy for the Disengagement Wolfensohn (Aug 3, 2005)
  34. President Katsav addresses the nation (Aug 10, 2005)
  35. Cabinet approves evacuation of Morag, Netzarim and Kfar Darom (Aug 7, 2005)
  36. IDF: Disengagement Plan is under way (Aug 15, 2005)
  37. Cabinet Communique (Aug 15, 2005)
  38. PM Sharon addresses the nation (Aug 15, 2005)
  39. Majority of communities in the Gaza Strip evacuated (Aug 21, 2005)
  40. Cabinet Communique (Aug 21, 2005)
  41. Evacuation of Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip completed (Aug 21, 2005)
  42. Evacuation of northern West Bank 23-Aug-2005
  43. Excerpt from speech by PM Sharon at the laying of the cornerstone of Nurit 29-Aug-2005
  44. Cabinet Communique 11-Sep-2005
  45. Exit of IDF Forces from the Gaza Strip completed 12-Sep-2005
  46. PM Sharon addresses the UN General Assembly 15-Sep-2005
  47. Completion of redeployment of IDF forces in the northern West Bank 20-Sep-2005
  48. Statement by the Quartet 20-Sep-2005

Ministerial and Directors-General Disengagement Committees

  1. PMO DG Cohen convenes director-generals forum on disengagement (Mar 15, 2005)
  2. Directors-general forum discusses implementation of Disengagement Plan (Apr 5, 2005)
  3. Directors-general disengagement forum discusses ministries’ preparations (Apr 18, 2005)
  4. PM Sharon chairs meeting of disengagement ministerial committee (Apr 19, 2005)
  5. PM Sharon chairs meeting of disengagement panel (May 4, 2005)
  6. PM Sharon chairs meeting of Disengagement Committee (May 18, 2005)
  7. Directors-General discuss government preparations for implementation of disengagement (May 31, 2005)
  8. Directors-General discuss implementation of disengagement (June 15, 2005)
  9. PM Sharon convenes meeting of Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Jul 4, 2005)
  10. Directors-general run Disengagement Plan simulation (Jul 14, 2005)
  11. PM Sharon chairs disengagement panel  (Jul 21, 2005)
  12. PM Sharon chairs meeting of Disengagement Committee  (Aug 1, 2005)
  13. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Aug 15, 2005)
  14. Ministerial Disengagement Committee receives update on evacuation (Aug 18, 2005)
  15. PM Sharon tells Disengagement Committee: resettling the evacuees is a national mission (Aug 22, 2005)
  16. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Aug 24, 2005)
  17. PM Sharon convenes meeting of Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Sept 7, 2005)
  18. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Sept 28, 2005)
  19. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee for further discussion (Nov 6, 2005)
  20. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Nov 23, 2005)
  21. PM Sharon convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Dec 4, 2005)
  22. Acting PM Olmert convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Jan 17, 2006)
  23. Acting PM Olmert convenes Ministerial Disengagement Committee (Mar 7, 2006)
  24. SELA Disengagement Authority Report (May 11, 2006)
  25. Ministerial Disengagement Committee discusses additional assistance (Jun 19, 2006)

 

Document 1: Address to the Fourth Herzliya Conference
(December 18, 2003)

…Like all Israeli citizens, I yearn for peace.  I attach supreme importance to taking all steps which will enable progress toward resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. However, in light of the other challenges we are faced with, if the Palestinians do not make a similar effort toward a solution of the conflict – I do not intend to wait for them indefinitely.

Seven months ago, my government approved the "Road Map" to peace, based on President George Bush’s June 2002 speech. This is a balanced program for phased progress toward peace, to which both Israel and the Palestinians committed themselves. A full and genuine implementation of the program is the best way to achieve true peace. The Road Map is the only political plan accepted by Israel, the Palestinians, the Americans and a majority of the international community. We are willing to proceed toward its implementation: two states – Israel and a Palestinian state – living side by side in tranquility, security, and peace. 

The Road Map is a clear and reasonable plan, and it is therefore possible and imperative to implement it. The concept behind this plan is that only security will lead to peace – and in that sequence. Without the achievement of full security – within the framework of which terrorist organizations will be dismantled – it will not be possible to achieve genuine peace, a peace for generations. This is the essence of the Road Map. The opposite perception, according to which the very signing of a peace agreement will produce security out of thin air, has already been tried in the past and failed miserably.  And such will be the fate of any other plan which promotes this concept.  These plans deceive the public and create false hope. There will be no peace before the eradication of terrorism…

I take this opportunity to appeal to the Palestinians and repeat, as I said at Aqaba: It is not in our interest to govern you. We would like you to govern yourselves in your own country: a democratic Palestinian state with territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria and economic viability, which would conduct normal relations of tranquility, security, and peace with Israel. Abandon the path of terrorism and let us together stop the bloodshed. Let us move forward together toward peace.

We wish to speedily advance implementation of the Road Map toward quiet and a genuine peace.  We hope that the Palestinian Authority will carry out its part. However, if in a few months the Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in implementing the Road Map – then Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.

The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terrorism as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The unilateral steps which Israel will take in the framework of the Disengagement Plan will be fully coordinated with the United States. We must not harm our strategic coordination with the United States. These steps will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are faced with. The Disengagement Plan is meant to grant maximum security and minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians.

We are interested in conducting direct negotiations, but do not intend to hold Israeli society hostage in the hands of the Palestinians. I have already said – we will not wait for them indefinitely.

The Disengagement Plan will include the redeployment of IDF units along new security lines and a change in the deployment of settlements, which will reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis located in the heart of the Palestinian population. We will draw provisional security lines and the IDF will be deployed along them. Security will be provided by IDF deployment, the security fence, and other physical obstacles. The Disengagement Plan will reduce friction between us and the Palestinians.

This reduction of friction will require the extremely difficult step of changing the deployment of some of the settlements. I would like to repeat what I have said in the past: In the framework of a future agreement, Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today.

The relocation of settlements will be made, first and foremost, in order to draw the most efficient security line possible, thereby creating this disengagement between Israel and the Palestinians. This security line will not constitute the permanent border of the State of Israel. However, as long as implementation of the Road Map is not resumed, the IDF will be deployed along that line.

Settlements which will be relocated are those which will not be included in the territory of the State of Israel in the framework of any possible future permanent agreement.  At the same time, in the framework of the Disengagement Plan, Israel will strengthen its control over those same areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.  I know you would like to hear names, but we should leave something for later.

Israel will greatly accelerate the construction of the security fence. Today we can already see it taking shape. The rapid completion of the security fence will enable the IDF to remove roadblocks and ease the daily lives of the Palestinian population not involved in terrorism.

In order to enable the Palestinians to develop their economic and trade sectors, and to ensure that they will not be exclusively dependent on Israel, we will consider, in the framework of the Disengagement Plan, enabling – in coordination with Jordan and Egypt – the freer passage of people and goods through international border crossings, while taking the necessary security precautions.

I would like to emphasize: the Disengagement Plan is a security measure and not a political one. The steps which will be taken will not change the political reality between Israel and the Palestinians, and will not prevent the possibility of returning to the implementation of the Road Map and reaching an agreed settlement.

The Disengagement Plan does not prevent the implementation of the Road Map. Rather, it is a step Israel will take in the absence of any other option, in order to improve its security. The Disengagement Plan will be realized only in the event that the Palestinians continue to drag their feet and postpone implementation of the Road Map.

Obviously, through the Disengagement Plan the Palestinians will receive much less than they would have received through direct negotiations as set out in the Road Map.

According to circumstances, it is possible that parts of the Disengagement Plan that are supposed to provide maximum security to the citizens of Israel will be undertaken while also attempting to implement the Road Map….

Full text of speech

Document 2: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon answers questions from the foreign press corps in Israel
(January 11, 2004)
 
…Q: Mr. Prime Minister, when you were minister of agriculture, you created the first settlements in the occupied areas. And today you are ready to leave some of them. Tonight there is a big demonstration in Tel Aviv and a number of ministers from your own cabinet are taking part in it, which is in a way, unheard of. Are you going to take any steps against them?

PM Sharon: First, to make a small correction here. When I entered the office of minister of agriculture, there were already 25 Jewish communities. Those communities started immediately after the Six Day War – 25 existed and two of them were under construction – and I think it was the right thing to do under the Labor government then. So that’s about the facts.

We don’t know who is participating in that demonstration there. Israel is a democracy, and I believe that that’s what brought them. I don’t know who is there, maybe there are some ministers too. As I said, Israel is a democracy and there is a government in Israel and things are decided not by demonstrators, but by the government. The government adopted the Road Map and I think that if there are members of the government there, they participated also in the government decision.

It is not an easy thing for people who were living in the territories for many years, they are already third generation there. But I believe that in order to achieve peace, Israel will not be able to hold all the Jewish communities. That has been said by me many, many times in the past. I said that in times that maybe politicians would not have that during primaries, before elections, and I said exactly what I’m going to do, so that nobody would come later and say: we supported you because we thought you are going to do something different.

I said very clearly what I’m going to do, and I repeated that again and again, and that is my position. And when Israel – and I hope that we’ll be able to do it soon – has to follow the Road Map, Israel will not be able to hold all the Jewish communities. It’s very clear, and even if we do not succeed – and I assure you that we will make every effort to implement the Road Map – but if we do not succeed and we will have to take unilateral steps of disengagement, no doubt that there would be some relocation of Jewish communities, and redeployment of Israeli armed forces: all that in order to provide more security to the State of Israel.

That’s very clear, and I’m repeating it again: if it will be possible, and only if we have a partner. Now we do not have a partner, they are not coming to negotiate – we’ll implement the Road Map. We regard that to be the best potential plan, and if not – if that does not work out, and it should be very clear to all the countries of the world that we tried and we made a real effort, then we will have to take unilateral steps in order to make this disengagement and redeployment of forces and relocation of some of the Jewish communities. I said it and repeated it now…

Israel is ready to make painful concessions. Why painful? Because these concessions are in areas which are the cradle of the Jewish people. The Jewish people was born as a people 4,000 years ago, and as a matter of fact, never left. There were Jews that never left this country. And that one must understand.…

…Regarding the Palestinian Authority (PA), Defense Minister Mofaz said that Israel’s intention to leave the Gaza Strip is causing unease in the PA, especially in regard to what will happen in the evacuated areas. The move is expected to prod the PA into preparing to take control of the area in order to prevent Hamas from doing so. The defense minister said that the PA leadership is concerned that an internationally backed disengagement would signify the delegitimization of the PA as a partner for advancing the Road Map….

Full text of briefing

Document 3: Knesset Speech by Prime Minister Sharon on the Disengagement Plan
(March 15, 2004)

Ten months have elapsed since the government of Israel accepted the "Road Map" together with the 14 Israeli reservations. During this entire period, Israel was willing to extend a hand to its Palestinian neighbors, and act together with them to implement the Road Map in all its stages. Unfortunately, to date I cannot say that we have encountered the same willingness on the Palestinian side. The attempts at attacks, the terrorism, the violence, and the incitement have not ceased during this period, even for a day, and the leadership on the Palestinian side has not taken any steps to stop these actions.
 
They have not done anything: They made no arrests, did not fight, did not confiscate weapons, did not even bother to try and stop the horrible incitement in the media, education system, and mosques under their control which call for the genocide of Jews, not even for a moment. The Palestinian cynicism was revealed yesterday in its full murderous cruelty when, on the one hand, Fatah members took responsibility for the terrorist attack, and, on the other hand, stood in front of every microphone and denounced the attack in English. The Palestinians must understand that the only way they will live in security and peace will be if they fight the terrorism, violence, and incitement which originate in their area. There will be no peace, there cannot be peace, before terrorism is defeated.

Until then, until the Palestinians understand that their interest obligates them to stop the terrorism, Israel is forced to act according to its own discretion. Israel will continue to fight Palestinian terrorism with all its might. We will pursue the terrorists, their dispatchers, those who finance them and those who sponsor them. No murderer, no villain who raises his hand against a Jew or against any Israeli citizen, will escape.

Yesterday, the State of Israel lost 10 of its sons – innocent civilians whose only sin was going to work to bring bread home to their families. I would like to send my condolences to their families, and I allow myself to do so on behalf of all of you, and wish the wounded a speedy recovery. I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate my condolences to the Spanish nation for their painful losses in the horrible terrorist attack which took place last Thursday in Madrid.

Members of Knesset,
The terrorist attack yesterday in Ashdod strengthens the understanding that there is no leader on the Palestinian side with the courage and ability to fight terrorism. Soon it will become clear to the world that Israel has no genuine partner for peace on the Palestinian side. Therefore, also in the political arena, Israel will have to act according to its own discretion. It is clear that, in such a situation, there will be no political negotiations with the Palestinians and they will, of course, not be able to realize their political wishes and aspirations.

I know that there are those who believe that the current situation is better for Israel than any other alternative. I am not one of those who sanctify the status quo. I believe we must change the current situation, and I emphasize, I believe we must change the current situation – a situation which necessarily leads to a political "vacuum". It is clear to me that within the political vacuum which will be created if the Road Map collapses, and Israel will not succeed in presenting its own alternative, dozens of political initiatives will be drawn up often, from all over the world. Today, we are already forced to repel such initiatives, which share the idea that Israel must reach an agreement while terror is still going on. In other words, Israel will have to make far-reaching concessions while legitimacy is given to terrorism. This is, of course, something we cannot accept….

Full text of speech

Document 4: Exchange of letters between PM Sharon and US President Bush 
(April 14, 2004)

Document 5: Cabinet Communique
(April 18, 2004)

…Prime Minister Sharon received a letter from President Bush, which indirectly expressed his support for the Disengagement Plan, and included clear American statements, which did not leave room for misunderstandings or doubt as to the position of the US…

The Prime Minister asserted Israel has not – since its establishment – received such unprecedented political support, as expressed in President Bush’s letter, which includes:… US recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks and against terrorist organizations in every place, including areas Israel has withdrawn from. This is the other dimension of the disengagement plan. This clause is meant to give Israel the political/military security, after it has implemented the plan, for an unlimited period of time, until the conditions have been met to continue implementing the Road Map…

Prime Minister Sharon responded to comments that the disengagement plan is a prize for terrorism and for the Palestinian Authority, and argued that the best way to refute this is to examine the Palestinian position. The Palestinians, as well as all Arab states, responded with anger and disgust to US President Bush’s letter and see it as a harsh strategic blow…

Prime Minister Sharon said that the government would not discuss the disengagement plan until after the Likud referendum on the matter, when an unlimited discussion will be held in which every minister will be able to express his or her opinion on the plan.

The prime minister emphasized that every member of the cabinet will have to show the necessary responsibility and to decide whether or not to vote for the plan, which will allow the political and security backing from the US, or to vote against the plan and to throw back the unequivocal, comprehensive and historical security support to the US. The prime minister said, "We will need to decide if we want to reject the plan and go to the final-status talks on these critical issues which are so essential to the existence of the State of Israel: No right of return for Palestinian refugees and borders to be fixed according to settlement and defense considerations, without American backing."

Full text of communique

Document 6: The Disengagement Plan – General Outline
(April 18, 2004)

Document 7: The Revised Disengagement Plan 
(June 6, 2004)

Document 8: Excerpt from Speech by PM Sharon after cabinet approval of Disengagement Plan
(June 6, 2004)

Document 9: Cabinet Communique
(October 24, 2004)

… In continuation of previous decisions on the Disengagement Plan, the cabinet decided to approve the principles of the draft 2004 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, including the amounts and methods of calculation determined therein, and to authorize the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to discuss and approve the draft….

Document 10: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Address to the Knesset – The Vote on the Disengagement Plan 
(October 25, 2004)

Document 11: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s speech to the Conference for Advancement of Export and International Cooperation
(November 11, 2004)
 
…A year ago I implied here for the first time that we were exploring a plan to help Israel confront the political deadlock in which we found ourselves. This plan – the Disengagement Plan – was so far approved by both the cabinet and the Knesset.

The Disengagement Plan is a unilateral Israeli step, designed first and foremost to improve Israel’s security and stabilize the political situation. The need for it arose following the Palestinian Authority’s complete failure to carry out its commitments, in accordance with the first phase of the Road Map.

This plan has yielded a series of unprecedented political achievements for Israel which will help us protect our vital interests in the future, i.e. preventing the entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel and the keeping of major Israeli population centers as part of the State of Israel, and more. It is important to remember that these achievements are an inseparable part of the Disengagement Plan, and their fulfillment is, of course, conditioned on Israel’s implementation of the plan.

Whoever wishes to waive those achievements of the understanding I reached with President Bush will seek different solutions. So will whoever does not want to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. I do want to reach an agreement, and will make every effort to do so. And we will.

If after the "Arafat era" there is a different, serious and responsible
leadership which will carry out its commitments under the Road Map – cessation of terrorism, violence and incitement, the dismantling of terrorist organizations and the implementation of governmental reforms – there can be a potential opportunity to coordinate different measures with that leadership and even renew the political negotiations.

Israel is a peace-seeking nation, and I hope that the Palestinians will quickly reorganize, in order that we may renew negotiations with them. However, as long as there are no real steps to fight terrorism and dismantle its infrastructures, there will be no change in Israel’s policy. Israel will proceed with the Disengagement Plan in accordance with the timetables which were set.

The benefits of the Disengagement Plan are not confined merely to the political-security area and its effects on the Israeli economy are already noticeable, and will be even more so in the future….

Full text of speech

Document 12: Cabinet Communique
(December 5, 2004)

…The defense minister also commented on the contacts between Israel and Egypt, which are designed to advance the Disengagement Plan. Defense Minister Mofaz met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Soliman; the discussions focused on the stationing of Egyptian border units along the Philadelphi corridor; searching for missing IDF soldiers in Egypt; a real-time coordination mechanism between the IDF and Egyptian forces, cooperation in the war against terrorism, and dealing with weapons smuggling.
 

Document 13: Cabinet Communique
(December 12, 2004)

…Prime Minister Sharon said that, for his part, Egyptian President Mubarak has recently taken a more positive line. In addition to the release of Azzam Azzam, he has also acted to improve bilateral relations and is interested in helping to advance the Disengagement Plan by advancing various security issues, mainly the prevention of smuggling and the training of Palestinian security forces. Therefore, the prime minister has instructed the security and legal establishments to check on the possibility of shortening the imprisonment or detention of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, in accordance with the criteria that have previously guided the government on this issue….

Document 14Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Address to the Fifth Herzliya Conference
(December 16, 2004)
 
…Last year, I presented the guidelines of the Disengagement Plan here.  Before that, I enumerated the starting points, the national goals we must strive for. The achievement of these goals is always in mind, in every action we take. The Disengagement Plan is intended, inter alia, to achieve these goals…

Israel’s most important initiative is the Disengagement Plan; leaving Gaza, which we will implement this year, with conviction and without hesitation, according to the schedule already determined.  This initiative is the foundation and cornerstone for the great opportunities which lie before us, and is perhaps one of the most important decisions we have made in the last few years.

Disengagement recognizes the demographic reality on the ground specifically, bravely and honestly.  Of course it is clear to everyone that we will not be in the Gaza Strip in the final agreement.  This recognition, that we will not be in Gaza, and that, even now, we have no reason to be there, does not divide the people and is not tearing us apart, as the opposing minority claims.  Rather, the opposite is true.  Disengagement from Gaza is uniting the people.  It is uniting us in distinguishing between goals which deserve to be fought for, since they are truly in our souls – such as Jerusalem, the large settlement blocs, the security zones and maintaining Israel’s character as a Jewish state – rather than goals where it is clear to all of us that they will not be realized, and that most of the public is not ready, justifiably, to sacrifice so much for.

One of the goals of Arab terrorism was to divide the country and break its spirit.  Stopping terrorism on the one hand, and the Disengagement Plan on the other, a plan which the great majority of the public supports, forges national unity and creates broad national consensus regarding the justness of our struggle for security, tranquility and peace.

The initiative of disengagement has produced a long list of political accomplishments.  Because of it, the Palestinians have no excuse not to abandon terrorism.  Because of it, there is no criticism of Israel’s determined actions against terrorism.  Now it is clear to everyone that, when Israel declares its willingness to make painful compromises, it indeed intends to make genuine and painful compromises.  Very painful…

In light of the new opportunities and potential of a new Palestinian leadership, Israel will be prepared to coordinate various elements relating to our Disengagement Plan with the future Palestinian government – a government which is ready and able to take responsibility for the areas which we leave.

If this happens, we will have a genuine chance to reach an agreement, and in the future, perhaps also genuine peace.  We can reach a situation where terrorism will stop being such a tangible threat to the well-being of the citizens of Israel.  For the first time since the establishment of the State, we will be able to live lives of tranquility, develop and build our economy without disturbance or threat and invest more in education, health and welfare.
For their part, the Palestinians can then also live in dignity and freedom in an independent state, and, together with us, enjoy good neighborly relations, while cooperating for the good of both our peoples…

On the evening of the vote to approve the Disengagement Plan, I addressed our Arab neighbors from the Knesset podium.  Many things have happened since then, and I would like to repeat what I said that day: we stand before a unique window of opportunity.  Who knows when we will have this opportunity in the future.  We must not miss this opportunity to reach an agreement….

Full text of speech

   
Document 15: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement at the Manufacturers Association Conference
(December 23, 2004)
 
…During the past four years, we have suffered an acute economic crisis, which threatened to collapse the foundations of the economy.  My government had to take severe and extreme steps.

I am pleased we were able to withstand this crisis and get past it.  Last year, we were witness to a renewal of growth and an increase in exports, while maintaining price- and exchange-rate stability, as well as the lowest interest rates ever…

This is the way to take our rightful place in the economy of the developed world, to ensure every citizen in Israel a good quality of life and to finance social safety nets appropriate to the essence of the Jewish state.

The renewed economic opportunities are assisted, first and foremost, by political developments, primarily the government’s determination to implement the Disengagement Plan.  I am determined to take advantage of the new window of opportunity to normalize our relations with the Palestinians, stop terrorism, and create a new environment of tranquility and peace, which will usher along new economic opportunities for both sides….

Full text of speech

Document 16: Cabinet Communique
(December 26, 2004)

…Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen and Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi briefed ministers on the operations of the Exceptional Cases Committee and the Disengagement Authority, which, last weekend, approved in principle the first advances for factories in the Erez Industrial Zone, and on the negotiations which the Authority is conducting with several Gaza Strip and northern Samaria communities on the possibility of moving entire communities to within existing communities.

Document 17: Cabinet Communique
(January 2, 2005)

…Prime Minister Ariel Sharon raised the issue of the way in which decisions regarding the Disengagement Plan would be implemented.

Justice Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitz, Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi, and Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass briefed ministers on their respective professional opinions – both legal and organizational – regarding the Disengagement Plan.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the cabinet decision on the evacuation of residents from the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria must be made a reasonable time in advance – from five to six months – of the actual evacuation. The prime minister added that the goal is to give residents official notice regarding the expected evacuation in order for them to organize accordingly. The residents must prepare for evacuation and especially for their lives after the evacuation – they must prepare new homes, new places of employment, new schools for their children, etc.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he has provided ministers with the professional opinions, both legal and organizational, so that they might afterwards hold joint consultations on the issue. The prime minister emphasized that he would like to keep to deciding on the evacuation of groups of communities as the cabinet decided on 6 June 2004, when it approved the Disengagement Plan, i.e. the specific decision regarding each group of communities as per such circumstances as may prevail at the time. The prime minister said that in approximately two weeks the cabinet will hear the position of the security establishment on this issue and by then the decision-making process will have been formulated….

Document 18: Statement by PM Ariel Sharon at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit
(Feb 8, 2005) 

…I am determined to carry out the Disengagement Plan which I initiated. The Disengagement Plan was initiated by a unilateral decision.  Now, if new change does emerge on the Palestinian side, the disengagement can bring hope and become the new starting point for a coordinated, successful process.

The Disengagement Plan can pave the way to implementation of the Roadmap, to which we are committed and which we want to implement. We are prepared to actively fulfill all our obligations, and expect the other side to carry out all its obligations.

Only actions and not words – this is the only way to attain the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and tranquility….

Full text of address

Document 19: Cabinet Communique
(February 20, 2005)

… 3. The Cabinet discussed the amended Disengagement Plan – the evacuation of communities and territories.  Prime Minister Sharon summarized the discussion as follows:

“The Government’s decision is important and vital for the State of Israel. From the moment that today’s decision is made, all ministers and ministries are bound by it and must act to advance it. The decision that we will make today is that referred to in Article 22 of the law regarding the evacuation of each group of communities, which requires that the decision be made five months prior to the actual evacuation. It is in keeping with Minister Tzipi Livni’s compromise, as it was approved by the Cabinet on 6 June 2004, regarding groups of communities; before the evacuation of each group, the Cabinet will convene in order to discuss and see if circumstances have changed, and decide accordingly.

This is not an easy day. This is a tough decision, very tough for all of us. I know that there are ministers for whom today’s vote is an especially harsh decision. These are among Israel’s best people, who established regional enterprises under very harsh conditions and were steadfast for many years with uncommon heroism. I ask that ministers meet with them and I will invite them again. But the decision is a harsh one. There are times when leadership, determination and responsibility are called for, even if it doesn’t seem popular, even if the decision isn’t easy. We must remember that we are making this decision in order to advance the future of the State of Israel and I very much appreciate the ministers’ vote.”

In continuation of decision #1996 of 6 June 2004, and in accordance with Article 22a of the Disengagement Implementation Law, the Cabinet decided, in regard to each group of communities, as follows:

A) Regarding the communities in the first group:
i) To evacuate the communities included in the first group as defined in the aforementioned Cabinet decision (Morag, Netzarim and Kfar Darom);
ii) The Cabinet will reconvene shortly before the evacuation of the group, will discuss the then existing circumstances, and will decide whether or not the circumstances are such that they will affect the evacuation.

B) Regarding the second group of communities:
i) To evacuate the communities included in the first group as defined in the aforementioned Cabinet decision (Northern Samaria communities – Ganim, Kadim, Sa-nur and Homesh);
ii) The Cabinet will reconvene shortly before the evacuation of the group, will discuss the then existing circumstances, and will decide whether or not the circumstances are such that they will affect the evacuation.

C) Regarding the third group of communities:
i) To evacuate the communities included in the first group as defined in the aforementioned Cabinet decision (the communities in Gush Katif).
ii) The Cabinet will reconvene shortly before the evacuation of the group, will discuss the then existing circumstances, and will decide whether or not the circumstances are such that they will affect the evacuation.

D) Regarding the fourth group of communities:
i) To evacuate the communities included in the first group as defined in the aforementioned Cabinet decision (the Northern Gaza Strip communities – Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit).
ii) The Cabinet will reconvene shortly before the evacuation of the group, will discuss the then existing circumstances, and will decide whether or not the circumstances are such that they will affect the evacuation.

E) In accordance with Article 22a of the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, shortly after this decision is made, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense minister Shaul Mofaz will, in an order or orders, determine the territories to be evacuated and the date of evacuation.

F) The discussions referred to above will be held from time to time, as will be determined for each group and as per the evacuation process…

Document 20: Address by PM Sharon to Conference of Presidents
(February 20, 2005)

I arrived here today directly from the meeting of the Government, a meeting in which an historic decision was made to implement the Disengagement Plan.

Today, the State of Israel took a decisive step for its future. The Government of Israel approved my proposal, and resolved to relocate the Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria.

60 years have passed since I began to serve the people of Israel, beginning when I served as a company commander in B Company of the 32nd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade until I gained the trust of the people when I was elected Prime Minister 4 years ago.  During all those years, I made hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions.  Many of them were fateful ones, some were life and death decisions. However, the decision regarding the Disengagement Plan was, for me, the most difficult one of all.

I accompanied the settlers of the Gaza Strip when I served as Head of the Southern Command, and then as a minister in the Governments of Israel. I was privileged to see the first greenhouse erected, the first field planted, homes built and children born. I was with them in their difficult moments, in their daily concerns of security needs, in their courageous stand when faced with mortar fire and terrorist attacks. As Prime Minister, as a citizen of the State of Israel, as a farmer – I am proud of them for their accomplishments, I am proud of them for their courage, I am proud of them for their great love of the land.

However, there are moments which demand leadership, determination and responsibility, even if it does not seem popular, even if the decision is difficult. My task as Prime Minister and our task as a Government is to see the big picture.  In the wider view, the Disengagement Plan ensures the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, fortifies our security, strengthens our economy, improves our international standing and promotes the chance of peace in our region. The decision which the Government of Israel made today was a difficult one – a very difficult one.  However, it is a decision of hope for the citizens of Israel – hope for a better future for all of us…

Last Wednesday, the Knesset passed, by a large majority, the law which will allow for the implementation of the Disengagement Plan. And as I stated earlier, today my Government voted in favor of the implementation of the Plan. In light of these two decisions, we are now proceeding forward with preparations to leave the Gaza Strip; a process which will begin five months from today.

… I am convinced that the step which was taken today is the right one in ensuring the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. It is the correct step to take as we aim to better our economy, strengthen our security and improve our international standing. The Disengagement Plan gives the Israeli people hope for a better future – hope for a better Israel.

Full text of speech


Document 28: Speech by PM Sharon to AIPAC Conference

(May 24, 2005)

Over a year ago, in the absence of a Palestinian partner to implementing the Roadmap, I initiated the Disengagement Plan, which was approved by the Government of Israel and the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Let there be no doubt – the Disengagement Plan will be implemented according to the timetable and the decisions authorized by the Government.

We believe disengagement will increase Israel’s security and reduce friction between the Palestinians and us. It will help advance our national strategic interests, promote our economy and prosperity and advance the development of the Negev and the Galilee.

It is thanks to the disengagement that we can make certain that there will be no entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel. In addition, the major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria will remain an integral part of the State of Israel and will have territorial contiguity with Israel in any final status agreement.

In addition to the understandings I reached with the President, since initiating the Disengagement Plan, it has gained the support of the international community and improved the status of Israel compared to a year ago.

In implementing the Disengagement Plan there is the potential of paving the way to the Roadmap. Though the decision of disengagement was taken unilaterally, Israel is willing to coordinate elements of the plan with the new leadership of the Palestinian Authority. I call upon the leaders of the Palestinian Authority to meet the challenge and coordinate the disengagement with us. The successful coordination of the Disengagement Plan will allow us to embark on a new era of trust and build our relations with the Palestinian Authority…

This last year has been very challenging for Israel and for me personally. In promoting the Disengagement Plan I paid a heavy political price. But this is where the foresight of strong leadership is realized. Strong leadership is measured by the ability to implement important processes that might initially seem unpopular but eventually bring positive results.

The coming period will not be easy, but I believe in the Israeli society and its ability to successfully overcome this period. I am certain that with the determination of the Israeli public we will be able to emerge from this experience strong and united.

Full text of speech

Document 32: Address by PM Sharon to the Caesarea 2005 Conference
(June 30, 2005)

… The greatest change we are implementing is the Disengagement Plan. We had to take the initiative. We faced a situation in which we could be either leaders or be led. And we decided to lead. We decided what our priorities were – we are withdrawing from the Gaza Strip – an area where there was no chance of establishing a Jewish majority, and which would clearly, in any final agreement, not be part of the State of Israel. At the same time, we are directing the majority of our efforts to areas which are most crucial to ensuring our existence – the Galilee, the Negev, Greater Jerusalem, the settlement blocs and the security zones.

I initiated the Disengagement, because it is the best tool to fundamentally change the national situation of the State of Israel. Withdrawing from Gaza will have a positive and decisive influence on every facet of life in Israel: security, the economy and the quality of life in the country. I say with confidence – the Disengagement places Israel in a better position in every possible scenario, and it will be carried out according to the timetable decided, beginning in seven weeks time.

The first challenge we face is the security challenge. Disengagement can assist us in curbing terror, and will certainly allow us to fight terror in a better and more effective way.

There is a real chance that disengagement will generate the Palestinian side to stop the terror offensive. For the first time the Palestinians will have to choose: Do they want to begin building, or continue destroying? Are they ready and able to change on their own, or do they want to continue to wallow in the swill of their hatred and incitement, which will lead their population to poverty and suffering? They truly have an opportunity. It would be regrettable if they miss it.

There exist in Palestinian society and its leadership moderate forces who want to make the right choice. Disengagement can help them, and constitutes a test of whether or not they can lead, whether we have or do not have a partner. If the Palestinians fail, and again choose the path of war and terror, the Disengagement will significantly improve our ability to deal efficiently with the terror.

The purpose of terror is, inter alia, to force the international community to actively intervene against Israel. Disengagement stopped this trend, and changed the political thought. Now it is clear to the world that Israel is ready to contribute its part by making genuinely painful concessions.  Now, the nations of the world have directed their demands to the Palestinians – to dismantle the terror organizations, stop the incitement, introduce law and order, and focus on bolstering Palestinian society rather than destroying the State of Israel.

Disengagement fortified the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States. There is understanding between us and the Americans vis-a-vis the immediate, necessary steps, regarding advancing according to the outline of the Roadmap, and regarding an uncompromising demand that the Palestinians fulfill all their obligations in order to move forward.

However, more important than anything else is the understanding we reached with the Americans that, in negotiations for the final agreement, they will support our stand on two essential issues for ensuring our future – keeping the settlement blocs in Israeli territory and preventing the entry of Palestinian refugees into the State of Israel. And this, of course, in addition to a series of other topics which appear in the agreement between President Bush and me. No previous government was successful in obtaining such commitments from the American administration in the past.

These understandings, written commitments signed by the President of the United States, and later overwhelmingly endorsed by both Houses of Congress, are the best guarantee of ensuring the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation.

The Disengagement Plan is the basis for strategic change in the situation of the State of Israel, parallel with the changes taking place in the Middle East. We are already able to see a shift in our relations with Egypt, the most important of Arab nations. We saw a good example for that today, at the signing of the natural gas agreement.

Despite not being an essentially economic event, the Disengagement clearly has a large economic and social influence. I have heard claims that the money invested in the Disengagement Plan could have been invested in social issues. We should probably remind those who forgot that we, in the government and in the Knesset, decided to deviate from the budgeted deficit and government expenditure to fund the Disengagement because of its special character, and the fact that it is a one-time event. Therefore, I do not feel I need to explain here that investment in Disengagement could not be allocated to any other target. It is the realization of the Disengagement Plan which will allow for diverting resources which are currently earmarked for ongoing security, to be used in building Israeli society and narrowing the gaps in it. This is the right economic and social path.

I believe that Disengagement will be one of the most successful, economically influential steps carried out in Israel. It is sufficient to examine the influence which the Disengagement has had on the growth of the Israeli economy even before it is carried out. I believe that your experts estimated the benefits of Disengagement at 2% GNP per annum.  here is no doubt that the dramatic increase in tourism, foreign investment and consumption originate primarily in optimism in the political arena. It is no accident that in the past two years we have seen renewed growth and a return of foreign investors…

… With all the pain and understanding, we must not be deterred from this crucial change. The fate of the entire state is at stake. We must withdraw from Gaza in order to build Israel.

I can tell you that a tremendous amount of work is being done to ensure that every resident who so wishes will find a solution which suits their needs, whether it be through financial compensation if that is what they wish, or by arranging temporary housing, or renting an apartment, or by preparing places for permanent settlement and land for agricultural cultivation.

There is a solution for all who wish it. There is a place for every evacuee – a place in Israel and a place in our hearts.

I make a complete distinction between them and the extremist gangs who are trying to terrorize Israeli society and tear it to pieces through violence against Jews and Arabs, and offending Muslims and violating their symbols, by thuggery and disobedience. It is not the path of Judaism. It is not the path of the settlers. It is not the path of Israel.

We will deal with these phenomena with a heavy hand since they threaten our very existence here, as a Jewish and democratic country. This is how we acted yesterday, and today at the hotel in Gush Katif which we evacuated. I wish to commend the Israel Police forces and IDF soldiers who carry out this difficult and important task. We will not let anyone raise a hand against an IDF soldier or a policeman in the Israel Police. Everyone who cares about this country – and who has public influence – must stand up and make a clear statement against these phenomena.

I promise you that I will not be deterred from implementing the evacuation from Gaza because of threats and intimidation from political opponents. I hear how they are planning my political deposition and the collapse of the government. I do not take them very seriously. However, I regret that this is the nature of our political life. I have previously withstood difficult trials, even more difficult than these. At these times, one must act calmly, and determinedly carry out what one believes. And so I will.

We face a difficult period of great internal pain. I am convinced that these are the labor pains of better times, in which we will stand, strong, united, and build a prosperous economy, a healthy, civilized and more just society, and most importantly, in which we ensure the people of Israel a future of tranquility, security and peace.

Full text of speech