Did Ariel Sharon Know He Was Making a Mistake?

Matt Yglesias makes some good points in reference to a post of mine in which I argued that Ariel Sharon's worst mistake (at least since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which was a real doozy) was the unilateral withdrawal (stress on "unilateral") from Gaza almost five years ago. Yglesias:

Sharon's Gaza plan wasn't a peace initiative that failed, it was an effort to create a dynamic in which final status peace talks could be avoided... The Sharon government worried that international pressure for serious negotiations with the Palestinian Authority was growing, and also that the Geneva Initiative was gaining political support domestically. Disengagement from Gaza was, yes, a repudiation of very extreme versions of Greater Israel thinking, but mostly a pragmatic effort to get out of this box...."

I think Yglesias is right. Sharon had two purposes in 2005: to get out of Gaza for some of the right reasons (he recognized, finally, that Israel couldn't remain both majority-Jewish and a democracy and continue to rule over Gaza's million-plus Palestinians); and to avoid re-engagement in the peace process, in which he did not believe. This was the crucial mistake. Sharon had taught himself (and Yasser Arafat helped teach him) that there was no Palestinian leadership with which to negotiate. What is also likely is that he knew that negotiations would inevitably end up where he didn't want them to end up, namely, with a Palestinian state on nearly all the West Bank and with its capital in East Jerusalem. Which is where, of course, Israel has to end up anyway, or else risk its sovereignty, its democracy and its Jewish nature.