We have now reached the ninth anniversary of one of the most shameful actions every carried out by the State of Israel in its history. Nearly a decade has passed since the terrible day on which the expulsion of the residents of Gush Katif and northern Samaria from their land began. They paid an unbearable personal price when they lost their homes, jobs, supportive communities and, in many cases, their futures.
Today, with a majority of Israelis under threat of Gaza rockets, we should remember the courage of the residents of Gush Katif and northern Samaria who sacrificed their safety and put themselves on the frontline against our enemies. Their presence in those areas actually prevented escalations such as the one we are witnessing now.
Their presence there made the lives of all Israelis, from Sderot on northward, more secure. We all owe them a thank you and an apology. A thank you for the personal sacrifices they made under often tough conditions. And an apology for the fact that instead of showing gratitude, we repaid them by expelling them from their homes and their land, an eternal black mark in Israeli history.
The writing was on the wall, but most refused to see it. There were many warnings about the enormous damage disengagement would cause, including the boost it would give to terrorism and the creation of a rocket base in Gaza that would be used to attack Israeli cities. Yet a majority of Knesset members at the time declined to listen.
The late Ariel Sharon, who was then prime minister, outdid himself, pledging, "Ashkelon will not become the frontline. Not Ashkelon, nor other places." Current Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said at the time that disengagement was "an act of true historic importance" that would "pull the state out of the mud." But now it cannot be denied that disengagement in fact got Israel deeper into the mud of terrorism, rockets and military operations meant to reduce those threats emanating from Gaza. Rockets from Gaza long ago passed over Ashkelon and now reach as far as northern Israel.
The main lesson from the failure of disengagement must be that the key to eradicating terrorism, creating deterrence and strengthening Israel's security is the expansion of the settlement enterprise and our hold on the land. This is how it was at the start of Zionism, in the Galilee, Negev, Sharon regions, and in Jerusalem. This is also how it is now in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. In areas where there is a Jewish presence, there is security. In areas we vacate, radical Islamists immediately fill the vacuum, imbued with a sense of victory and motivated to step up their terrorist activities to push us out of other areas.
It is astounding to think that, even today, there are still those who want to follow the same path, promoting a unilateral move to expel Jews from large parts of Judea and Samaria and establish a Palestinian state in their place. Such a move would have the same result as the disengagement from Gaza -- radical Islam would flourish in the vacated areas and an Islamic terrorist base would be established in the heart of the land of Israel, posing an existential threat to us.
The fact that we have no partner for peace does not mean that we have to initiate unilateral concessions without getting anything in return. Rather, the lack of a true peace partner makes it imperative for us to expand the settlement enterprise, so that our enemies will understand that we are here in our ancestral homeland to stay.
Historic justice and daily needs do not always fully interlock. But disengagement taught us that they do when it comes to settlements. Standing up for our historic rights will deal a blow to terrorism and improve the security of all of Israel's citizens.MK Yariv Levin (Likud) is coalition chairman and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.