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Returning to 'Gush Katif' Won't Bolster National Security

The brutal attack by Hamas on October 7 served as a stark indicator of the shortcomings in Israel's national security strategy. One critical aspect that warrants reassessment is the role of Israeli settlements on the frontline (see our previous paper here). Amidst this backdrop, a growing faction within the Israeli right is advocating for the re-establishment of "Gush Katif" within the Gaza Strip. At a recent political gathering discussing this matter, numerous speakers voiced security concerns over ideological ones. They argued that a blend of military and civilian presence in Gaza is essential for Israel's security.

In Israel's formative years, frontline settlements acted as a primary defence against incursions, asserting sovereignty, securing borders, and providing vital intelligence. This approach not only underscored the importance of living amidst threats - defending one's home and nation - but also fostered national and communal resilience.

Israelis debating

However, this strategy of spatial defence has gradually diminished over the years for reasons discussed in our previous paper. Presently, frontline settlements are perceived more as liabilities than security assets. Following October 7, settlements in the north were evacuated even before hostilities commenced, and of course those in the Gaza envelope were also deserted. Displaced residents from the north and south have been evacuated four months ago, with no clarity on their return.

Critics of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza contend that this strategic vulnerability wouldn’t occur without the withdrawal from Gaza. Indeed, the withdrawal from Gaza allowed Hamas to fortify its forces, leading to the unprecedented strategic blow for Israel.


This argument underpins the support for resettling Gush Katif. Proponents believe that military presence alone in Gaza is insufficient for Israel's security, as it might offer Palestinians hope this is merely  temporary. Conversely, resettlement would legitimize IDF's use of force for settlement protection, thereby ensuring Israel's safety. 


Yet, a viable national security strategy is unattainable without widespread consensus. The war erupted  amidst a constitutional crisis and deep societal divisions, and fear of civil clashes. Although the war temporarily masked these divisions, underlying fractures threaten to resurface, potentially destabilizing Israeli society once more.


Across the political spectrum, there's a unanimous recognition of a conceptual failure. However, the debate rages over which concept has failed. The left criticizes the bolstering of Hamas over the Palestinian Authority, leading to the current predicament, while the right highlights the risks of Palestinian sovereignty, tracing the issue back to the Oslo Accords. Both perspectives raise crucial points, yet this ideological clash, especially concerning 'the day after', risks plunging Israeli society back into division.


It's crucial for Israel's security agenda to garner substantial domestic support while minimizing societal discord. Although complete consensus on the aftermath is unrealistic, striving for a broadly as possible acceptable solution is vital for national cohesion.


As Israeli presence in the Gaza strip takes on a more permanent and civilian nature, national resilience will be challenged, alongside a decline in international and particularly American support for Israel's actions. In a period marked by multi-arena military conflicts, internal strife is the last challenge Israel needs.


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