Ariel Sharon's plan to remove settlements from Gaza has, as predicted by the military, increased attacks there. Yesterday's destruction of an Armored Personnel Carrier and the mutilation of soldiers's bodies, as well as today's attacks against another APC and D-9 bulldozer point to an escalation there. The question then is what should Israel do regarding disengagement, as well as this escalation. Neither of these questions lend themselves to easy answer.
Despite the Likud's rejection of the disengagement plan, it seems that Sharon intends to proceed with it, albeit in some altered form. To do so as things stand would be a colossal mistake. Such a withdrawal will be perceived by the Arabs as a retreat similar to the one from Lebanon, a retreat that by most accounts gave impetus to the current war the Palestinians are waging. Yet strategically, the settlements in Gaza are a liability. There is a big difference between the settlements in Judea and Samaria and those in Gaza - there is much more of a historical and political attachment to Judea and Samaria.
The escalation of the past two days seems to be leading to something that has needed to happen, yet has been resisted on both a political and military level, namely an invasion of Gaza similar to Operation Defensive Shield. The only way to withdraw from Gaza would be after such an operation and the destruction of the majority of the terrorist infrastructure. The main benefit of such an operation, however, would not even be the physical destruction of the terrorists infrastructure as much as the destruction of the terrorists' belief that Israel could not invade Gaza. Until this is accomplished, withdrawal is impossible.