Hello and thank you for your question.
I would say the immediate reason is that as many as 3,000 Israeli
troops were needed to protect the 7,500 settlers at a cost tens of
millions of dollars per year, and the growing population demographics
of Gaza's 1,325,000 Palestinian Arabs made the possibility of
continuing that presence ever more difficult.
By way of background, the Gaza Strip is 140 square miles (362 square
kilometers), about twice the size of Washington, D.C., with a
population [until this week] of approximately 7,500 Israeli Jews
living in 21 settlements and 1,325,000 Palestinian Arabs. The Gaza
area was occupied by Egyptian forces at the end of the 1948-1949 war.
From 1949 to 1967, Egypt administered but did not claim the territory.
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war and administered
the area until the 1994 agreement recognized Palestinian sovereignty
over 70% of the strip. Shortly after the 1967 conflict, Israeli
civilian settlers began establishing settlementsin the West Bank, the
Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. The future of West Bank
and Gaza settlements is supposed to be a subject of final negotiations
between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli settlers wanted to remain
in Gaza for two primary reasons; either they are seeking the economic
and personal advantages of less expensive housing, living space, and a
pleasant setting for their homes and businesses, or they believe that
Gaza is a part of traditional Israel and they are fulfilling a
religious and historical duty by claiming theland for a Jewish state.
The above is taken from a very good 6-page answer to your question
from the [US] Congressional Research Service
CRS Report for Congress Israel's Proposal to Withdraw from Gaza
You can read the Israeli government's official explanation here:
Cabinet Resolution Regarding the Disengagement Plan
The Cabinet Resolution says there are 8 reasons:
"One. The stalemate dictated by the current situation is harmful. In
order to break out of this stalemate, the State of Israel is required
to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation.
Two. The purpose of the plan is to lead to a better security,
political, economic and demographic situation.
Three. In any future permanent status arrangement, there will be no
Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is
clear that in the West Bank, there are areas which will be part of the
State of Israel, including major Israeli population centers, cities,
towns and villages, security areas and other places of special
interest to Israel.
Four. The State of Israel supports the efforts of the United States,
operating alongside the international community, to promote the reform
process, the construction of institutions and the improvement of the
economy and welfare of the Palestinian residents, in order that a new
Palestinian leadership will emerge and prove itself capable of
fulfilling its commitments under the Roadmap.
Five. Relocation from the Gaza Strip and from an area in Northern
Samaria should reduce friction with the Palestinian population.
Six. The completion of the plan will serve to dispel the claims
regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza
Seven. The process set forth in the plan is without prejudice to the
relevant agreements between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.
Relevant arrangements shall continue to apply.
Eight. International support for this plan is widespread and
important. This support is essential in order to bring the
Palestinians to implement in practice their obligations to combat
terrorism and effect reforms as required by the Roadmap, thus enabling
the parties to return to the path of negotiation."
After reading the above two references, please let me know via Request
for Clarification if I can tell you any more about Israel's decision.
Search terms used:
sharon gaza february 2004
"plan for the evacuation" sharon gaza
Thanks again for your question
Google Answers Researcher