In 2005 the Israeli disengagement from Gaza took place. During this process of disengagement, the Israeli settlers within the Gaza strip were taken out of the Gaza strip (by command or by force). In theory, these settlers could have remained there and lived under the new government of Gaza.

Were there any statements by Israeli politicians at the time, or since, explaining why the evacuation was done, rather than the settlers continuing to live in the Gaza strip, under the new Gaza government? Alternatively, were there any historical/journalistic work done on reasons for that decision?

EDIT: I am adding some information on my research about this as requested:

  • Regarding the Israeli disengagement from Gaza taking place in 2005, I have read Wikipedia:Israeli_disengagement_from_Gaza and Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These describe in similar terms the evacuation/eviction of Israeli settlers, and the time and place of the disengagement, but not the reasons for the evacuation.
  • I have also read Wikipedia:Gush_Katif#Evacuation regarding the evacuation. This article describes the evacuation as controversial and unsupported by the residents of the evacuated region, yet does not address the question of why the evacuation was done. I have also read theguardian.com which is an article documenting the evacuation; this also describes it as controversial (among the Israeli settlers at least) but does not address why the evacuation was done.
  • I have also tried Googling explicitly questions such as "why were Israeli settlers evacuated from Gaza?". There are some resources addressing the reasons for the disengagement itself, yet not the evacuation. As I mentioned, in theory, Israel could have disengaged from Gaza but left the Israeli settlers to live in their homes under the new Gaza government. At least I have not found statements of any constraints that prevented that.
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    – MCW
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 15:07

3 Answers 3


The Gaza disengagement plan was revealed to the public by Ariel Sharon in December 2003 at the Herzliya Conference, an Israeli policy conference for high-ranking politicians, security analysts and other bigwigs.1,4 The plan was adopted by the Israeli cabinet in April 2004 and passed by the Israeli parliament in October the same year.2,4 In Sharon's speech, he stated that:1

The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terror 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.

He further asserted that only settlements in territory that would not be included in the State of Israel would be evacuated and that Israel would strengthen its control over settlements in territory it intended to keep:

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 [Israel plus the West Bank and the Gaza strip] which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.

However, Sharon's plan faced stiff opposition both from within his own party Likud and outside of it. Benjamin Netanyahu, who would later become Israel's long-running prime minister, was one of its vocal critics. To appease the plan's many critics the scope of the disengagement and its rationale was changed.2

One argument added was that it would "serve to dispel the claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip".2,3 Under international law the Gaza Strip is occupied by Israel and Israel is obliged to care for Gazans' well-being. But the Israeli government argued that after disengagement Gaza would no longer be occupied territory.

Another powerful agument in favor of disengagement was the "demographic threat". The idea that Israel is a "Jewish and democratic" state, but that too many non-Jews would force the state to choose between remaining Jewish or remaining democratic. If the state chooses democracy, Jewish dominance over the state would not be guaranteed and the state would become a secular multi-ethnic state. Perhaps like the U.S., where the white's dominance of the state apparatus is slowly eroding. But if the state chooses to be Jewish, it would need to implement apartheid against non-Jews to preserve its Jewishness and that would not be democratic.

The Israeli security think tank INSS in a policy brief from 2005 argues that the demographic threat was the impetus for the disengagement plan:5

For many years a large majority in Israel has understood the difficult and painful choices facing the country. One choice is to quit the territories and divide the region into two states that will leave Israel with narrower borders, but whose limited size is essential for ensuring that Israel remains a democratic state with a solid Jewish majority. The other choice is continued Israeli deployment in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in order to retain control over all of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, even if this results in the loss of a Jewish majority in the area within a short time and / or the end of Israel as a democratic state.

One person who understood the need for changing direction was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who initiated the current political plan that unilaterally cedes Israel's control of the land and the Arab population in the Gaza Strip. ... Sharon's assumption is that this step, which involves the evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip (home to approximately 8,000 people), will free Israel from responsibility for 1.3 million Palestinians, an Arab population whose birthrate is one of the highest in the world.

A month before Sharon presented his plan at Herzliya his deputy Ehud Olmert warned about a need for radical policy change to avert the demographic threat in an interview with Haaretz:6

There is no doubt in my mind that very soon the government of Israel is going to have to address the demographic issue with the utmost seriousness and resolve. This issue above all others will dictate the solution that we must adopt. In the absence of a negotiated agreement ... we need to implement a unilateral alternative... More and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated, two-state solution, because they want to change the essence of the conflict from an Algerian paradigm to a South African one. From a struggle against 'occupation,' in their parlance, to a struggle for one-man-one-vote. That is, of course, a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle – and ultimately a much more powerful one. For us, it would mean the end of the Jewish state... the parameters of a unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem... Twenty-three years ago, Moshe Dayan proposed unilateral autonomy. On the same wavelength, we may have to espouse unilateral separation... [it] would inevitably preclude a dialogue with the Palestinians for at least 25 years.

  1. Address by PM Ariel Sharon at the Fourth Herzliya Conference-Dec 18- 2003
  2. The Israeli Disengagement Plan as a Conflict Management Strategy, Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, Kobi Michael
  3. The Cabinet Resolution Regarding the Disengagement Plan
  4. The Politics and Economics of Israeli Disengagement, 1994-2006
  5. "Two Roads Diverged": Israel's Post-Disengagement Strategic Options
  6. 'Maximum Jews, Minimum Palestinians'
  • Hello. I offered an answer to this topic. Commented Apr 10 at 18:15

Theory vs. reality

In theory, these settlers could have remained there and lived under the new government of Gaza.

In theory this is correct. Moreover, in theory, once the Palestinian state is established, these people could become the (Jewish) citizens of this state.

In reality the tensions between the two sides are so strong, and recourses to violence are so common, that such co-existence would be very unlikely. Thus, the State of Israel was under an obligation to guarantee the safety of these settlers, because they are citizens of Israel and thus guaranteed protection by their state. This is further enforced by the Israel's declared mission to serve as a protector of Jewish people and victims of antisemitism.

On a lesser scale removing its citizens from danger zones or the areas of natural disaster, if necessary by force, is not an uncommon practice for many countries.

Removing of the settlers from Gaza is not a unique event. In fact, the settlement activity is restricted by the Israeli government. Firstly, because not all the parts of the West Bank are subject to the Israeli jurisdiction - following the Oslo Accords, the West Bank is divided into areas A, B, and C, depending on the degree to which they are administrated by the Palestinian government or Israel. Moreover, there are obvious restrictions related to the land ownership - the authorized settlements are build on the land owned by the state of Israel or the private Israeli citizens, but not on the land owned by the Palestinians or the Palestinian Authority.

This resulted in a phenomenon of outposts, which are the settlements built illegally from the Israel's point of view (I spell it fully, so that we do not get into a broader argument about the legality of the settlements). Dismantling and forceful evacuation of such outposts, ordered by Israeli courts is not uncommon, and extensively covered in Israeli news, see, e.g., here and here.

Remark: Many Israeli media also publish in English language version, notably Haaretz (major left-wing newspaper, roughly equivalent to Guardian/NYT/LeMonde/DieZeit) and Jerusalem Post (major right wing, roughly equivalent to .../WSJ/LeFigaro/FAZ).

Another relevant case: evacuation of the Israeli settlements in Sinai peninsula, as a result of the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty in 1979.

  • 1
    I'd say the theory is not even correct: Settlers couldn't become citizens of Palestine State because the Palestines don't even recognize their right to be there. In theory they would become illegal immigrants at best. However those minor theoretical details don't change the practical outcome.
    – Pere
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 12:56
  • 1
    @Pere you are misinterpreting what I said. If the Palestinian state is established, the status of the settlers would be decided in the course of negotiations leading to the peace agreement.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 14:08
  • @dotancohen I am not making here any claims about the likelihood of a peace agreement.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 8:33
  • @RogerVadim: Regarding the previous comment: Such a peace agreement is far from a given, especially as Hamas does not recognize the Jewish state. Thus, without such an agreement, the status of the Jews remaining in Gaza would pretty much be "abandoned" by Israel and "invaders" by Hamas.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 8:44
  • @dotancohen I agree that a peace agreement is highly hypothetical, so any discussion about it should be viewed as such. In absence of such an agreement, the Israel's primary obligation is protecting its citizens, which in this case meant evacuating them from the danger zone, even if against their wishes.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 9:07

On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice affirmed Israel was an illegal Occupying Power in respect to Gaza and the other Occupied Territories. Among the affirmations, the Ruling of 9 July 2004 said:

  • The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law.

  • The Court ascertains whether the construction of the wall has violated the above-mentioned rules and principles. It first observes that the route of the wall as fixed by the Israeli Government includes within the “Closed Area” (between the wall and the “Green Line”) some 80 per cent of the settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territory. Recalling that the Security Council described Israel’s policy of establishing settlements in that territory as a “flagrant violation” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Court finds that those settlements have been established in breach of international law.

  • In conclusion, the Court considers that Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall. The Court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law.

We can note in its submission of 11 January 2024, the South African legal delegation said:

  • I should address the question of self-defence. In its Advisory Opinion in the Wall case, the Court noted that the threat that Israel had argued justified the construction of the wall was not imputable to a foreign State, but emanated from territory the Occupied Palestinian Territory over which Israel itself exercises control. For those reasons, the Court decided that as a matter of international law the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter had no relevance in such circumstances.

  • Twenty days ago, the Security Council affirmed yet again that Gaza is occupied territory. Though Israel refers to a complete withdrawal from Gaza, it has retained control over Gaza over access by land, sea and air, and over key governmental functions and supplies of water and electricity. The tightness of its grip may have varied; but no one can doubt the continuous reality of Israel’s grip on Gaza. The Court’s legal holding from 2004 remains good.

  • Some will ask why South Africa does not seek any Court order against Hamas. This case concerns Israel’s actions in Gaza, which is territory that, three weeks ago in resolution 2720, the United Nations Security Council stressed is “an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967” by Israel. As the Court will understand, Hamas is not a State and cannot be a party to the Genocide Convention; and cannot be a party to these proceedings. There are other bodies and processes that can address the questions of steps to be taken in respect of past atrocities and against other actors; and they are no doubt considering what they should do. But as a matter of law, under the Convention, South Africa cannot request an Order from this Court against Hamas.

In conclusion, it appears the 9 July 2004 International Court of Justice Ruling negated any fundamental legal rights of Israel to protect its illegal settlers in Gaza and to act in any type of self-defence in relation to Gaza.

  • 1
    This is important context, but is there any declaration of Israeli officials referring to this ruling as one of the motives driving their decision to evacuate the Gaza Strip ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Apr 11 at 6:54

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