It was a hot, humid August in 2005, when an event that would prove integral to Israel’s future demonstrated to politicians, statesmen, military brass and run-of-the mill Israelis how painful and difficult it is to separate from the Palestinians when it comes to evacuating Israeli settlements. That month the government evacuated the 21 Gush Katif settlements in its unilateral disengagement from Gaza (along with four settlements in the northern West Bank). The images are still etched in the collective Israeli memory, among them scenes of angry protesters in orange shirts brandishing placards blaring, “Jews don’t evacuate Jews!” There was crying, screaming and then the suddenly silent rubble and ruins of private homes, public buildings and synagogues.
Just a few months after the disengagement, in January 2006, Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Then, five months on, in June, an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was abducted near the Gaza border. About a year later, Hamas launched military action to seize full control of the government. Since then, Israel has been trapped in an endless cycle of violence and missile fire into its territory from Gaza. Despite speculation by some observers, the engagement did not turn Gaza into another Singapore or a new Dubai.