In February 2004 Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli troops from Gaza and dismantle the Jewish settlements came as a surprise. The initiative was somehow the result of an important debate that developed in the country on the Jewish and democratic identity of the State of Israel. Identity threatened by the strong Arab demographic pressure in the Middle East, which resulted in an increasingly rapid growth of the Palestinian population compared to the Jewish one, and more generally of the Arab population throughout the region. The need to assure Israel a Jewish majority was at the basis of Sharon’s decision, who pragmatically reckoned with the demographic reality on the ground: according to the forecasts of demographers, in fact, in the 21st century, just 55 % of the population, would have been impossible to guarantee in the future, and by 2050 it would have been reduced to a minority of 37 %. Sharon’s decision tore the country apart and was boycotted by his own party, the Likud ; moreover, it did not favor the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, who indeed saw in this initiative the Israeli desire not to reopen a negotiating table for peace, but to act unilaterally and without interlocutors in the region. Nonetheless, Sharon and Deputy Prime Minister E. Olmert successfully coped with internal party dissent (60 % of Likud rejected the disengagement plan in a referendum held in May) and to the government itself, which, after having launched the plan with 14 votes in favor and 7 against, risked ending up in the minority due to the resignation and disagreement of many ministers. The government managed to avoid the vote of no confidence in the Knesset thanks also to the support of the Labor Party. In October, at the end of a dramatic session, the Knesset approved with 67 votes in favor and 45 against the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the dismantling of 21 settlements (with around 8200 settlers) in the Strip and four in the north of the West Bank (just 674 settlers and 230,000 who then resided there). The residents of the settlements were guaranteed high compensation, compensation and new housing solutions as similar as possible to the previous ones. For Israel 2012, please check eningbo.info.
Meanwhile, in the confrontation with the Palestinians, Israel pursued its policy of ‘targeted killings’ to eliminate Palestinian terrorists and militants considered a threat to state security. Between March and April the summit of Ḥamās was beheaded: first Sheikh Ahmad Yāsīn, founder and spiritual leader of the organization, and then his successor ̔Abd al-̔Aziz al-Rantīsī were killed in two air raids on the Strip. The response of Ḥamās was not long in coming and in August, in Beersheba, she claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing on two Israeli buses, which had caused 16 deaths and many injuries.
The 2005 began with the formation of a new coalition government (58 votes in favor and 56 opposed to the Knesset), which saw the participation of eight ministers of the Labor Party and the escape of Shinui , who, despite having significantly supported the plan of disengagement from Gaza, criticized Sharon for his condescension towards ultra-Orthodox political formations. In February, the ŠŠarm al-Šayẖ meeting between Sharon and the new Palestinian president Abū Māzin (̔Abbās Maḥmūd al-̔Aqqād), elected just a month earlier, broke a long stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. ̔Arafāt’s death (November 2004), whose role of interlocutor had been questioned for some years by Israel, had in fact seemed to open up new perspectives for dialogue, which was painstakingly resumed for the first time after the outbreak of the second intif ā ḍ a . The joint desire to put an end to the violence, which since the beginning of the revolt had caused the deaths of around 3,500 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis (figures later destined to rise further), characterized the summit, after which Israel showed his willingness to facilitate the living conditions of a thousand Palestinians from Gaza who worked in Israel and released a few hundred prisoners. But over the course of the year the political scene was dominated by the expected disengagement, and while in the country the protest of the settlers of the Gaza Strip rose, who did not however garner the unconditional support of civil society, the Likud he continued his obstruction of the evacuation plan, repeatedly proposing a referendum and obstacles of a legal nature. In June, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected all appeals from opponents to the plan, thus paving the way for Sharon, who continued however to deal with the strong discontent of his own party and with a precarious parliamentary majority. As the date of the disengagement, scheduled for August, approached, a government-commissioned investigation denounced the illegality of 105 settlements in the West Bank, suspecting the presence of many other outposts built without the authorization of the government or with the tacit consent of the latter.