Unilateral withdrawal from part of the West Bank was very much on the agenda following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The idea was that in the absence of peace agreement, Israel should move ahead unilaterally to create a separation between itself and the Palestinian Authority.

This approach was discredited by the rise of Hamas in Gaza in 2006, but in recent months some in Israel, including Defence Minister Ehud Barak, have started advocating it once again.

To explore this issue Fathom Deputy Editor Toby Greene interviewed two senior former Israeli officials with strongly opposing views.

Ami Ayalon is the former head of the Israeli Navy, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, and a former cabinet minister in the government of Ehud Olmert. He is one of the leading figures in the Blue White Future movement advocating unilateral withdrawal.

Moshe Arens was a Likud Knesset member for more than 20 years. A professor of aeronautical engineering he served as Israel’s ambassador to the US, three times as minister of defence, and once as Israel’s foreign minister. He has been a sharp critic of unilateralism, accusing its proponents of suffering from ‘unilateral withdrawal syndrome.’

Moshe Arens (DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel) Ami Ayalon (Ariel Schalit/AP/Press Association)

Moshe Arens (DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel) Ami Ayalon (Ariel Schalit/AP/Press Association)