IDF General: Israel Incapable of West Bank Pullout

Giora Eiland testifies before state commission of inquiry on handling of Gush Katif evacuees.

Almost seven years after he was introduced to Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, initiated the establishment of the Sela disengagement administration to aid evacuees from Gaza and northern Samaria, and became one of the central figures behind the scenes in carrying out the plan - the head of the National Security Council at the time of the 2005 disengagement, Maj. Gen (res.) Giora Eiland, is convinced that Israel is incapable of evacuating settlements on the West Bank.

In his testimony before the state commission of inquiry on the handling of the Gush Katif evacuees, Eiland said: "On the level of the state, is the state capable, yes or no, of taking steps which are certainly politically controversial - the answer is certainly not. We are a neutralized country. What, that isn't clear?"

The ex-general testified before the commission last Wednesday, whose members are retired Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza, Prof. Yedidia Stern and Dr. Shimon Ravid. Eiland was asked many times during his testimony about the considerations which led to the establishment of the Sela administration, as well as the preparations leading up to the implementation of the disengagement.

At the start of his testimony, Eiland spoke of the faulty planning on a political level. "For about 10 years I was in a position where I constantly met with the political echelon of the State of Israel, and I can tell you about projects that are much more of an emergency than this - not because they are more important but because they are more urgent, they cannot be delayed," he told the commission in explaining his lack of faith in the government's ability to carry out its policies.

"Five years ago there was an attempt by terrorists to attack an El Al or Arkia plane in Kenya," he said in describing one of his experiences. "They shot a missile at a plane with 278 passengers, which missed the plane by a few meters. The cabinet met and decided to provide an answer in the former of electronic warfare against missiles. A budget was set aside, there was project A and project B, everyone gathered about, but then the project was stopped. One reason was a disagreement between the Finance and Transportation Ministers, Bibi [Netanyahu] and Meir Sheetrit at the time, over NIS 5 million. Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the system, will it be part of the role of the Transportation Ministry or will it require a dedicated budget from the Finance Ministry?

"Two years after the project started," Eiland continued, "there was a special discussion in the cabinet, lead by Sharon, and the Chief of Staff attended and me, as the head of the Planning Branch, and Dan Halutz who was then commander of the Air Force, and the relevant ministers. And the discussion - do you know how it ended? The prime minister said: 'Good, try somehow to meet and arrange [things] between yourselves.' That is how the State of Israel functions - for anyone who doesn't know."

Another example he gave was the NIS 17 billion earmarked for developing the Negev and Galilee. "What happened there?" he asked.

Part of the problem, he said, is to be found in the structure of the Israeli political and governing system. The prime minister needs cooperation, he explained, and no one is interested in cooperating. Even if a minister is from the prime minister's party, they usually want to replace him. It is impossible to run a country this way and the cabinet is not capable of implementing large, national projects," he said, accusing the bureaucracy of taking over the system. He also voiced criticism of the over-legalization of Israel.

"Israel is like a man walking in the dark. He has a flashlight, but it is off and doesn't light the way in front of him. When he hits a rock and falls to the ground and his nose is in the mud, he says: 'How do we get out of this?' That he's not so bad at doing. But to use the flashlight to light the way so he can see the rock, that he doesn't know how to do," said Eiland.