Gaza Pullout Not the Answer
The disengagement plan, or more precisely, the plan to evacuate Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and a portion of the West Bank, was a defining moment for Israel’s policy. These territories were captured 38 years ago during the Six Day War. In June 1967, Israel stood alone, facing an existential threat in the form of a military coalition that united nearly the entire Arab world. The coalition assembled forces and threatened war.
For many years, a large majority in Israel has understood the difficult and painful choices facing the country.
The first choice was to leave the territories and divide the region which would leave Israel with narrower borders.
The second choice was continued Israeli deployment in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in order to retain control over the territory despite the cost the military and citizens.
In August 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon initiated the political plan that ceded Israel’s control of the land put the disengagement plan into action. This plan arose in the absence of a Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate a program for ending Israel’s ‘occupation’ and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Sharon’s assumption was that this step, which involved the evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip (home to approximately 8,000) would create peace with the Palestinians. The disengagement, however, is far from over. This political action has left psychological scars as well as serious political, social, economic and moral consequences.
After Israel’s agonizing social and political confrontations during the last few years and the trauma of the evacuation itself, the policy of disengagement aims to restore ‘domestic tranquility.’ This policy is based on the assumption that the new boundaries will eventually be accepted by Palestinians and the international community. The weak link in this policy is the hopeful, if not naive, assumption that the Arab world will reconcile itself to it and accept the dictated borders for the future Palestinian state.
One of the strategic goals of current Israeli policy appears to strive toward the completion of the security fence, turning it into a separation fence and border and preserving ongoing settlement expansion in most of the territory.
Nonetheless, two conclusions can be drawn from this situation.
First, this policy will inevitably lead to the renewal of violent struggle. Although the security fence will make it difficult for suicide bombers to penetrate Israel, it will leave Israel exposed to attack by high trajectory weapons like missiles.
Secondly, this policy has continued to entail huge Israeli financial investments in new settlement projects and their security features. The heavy price that Israel is paying for the Gaza pullout is an indication of the future price it will have to render for the settlements and ongoing peace.
Moreover, the evacuees, who are both Jewish and Muslim, are suffering for the sake of the tainted roadmap to ‘peace.’ The majority of evacuees who lived along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are currently dwelling in hotel rooms or in tents until they find alternative living arrangements. Bedouins (nomadic Arab tribes who are proud Israeli citizens) that lived in several of the ceded territories have been relocated into Israel, and left what they deemed as home for many years.
Palestinians who worked in Gaza and parts of the West Bank prior to the disengagement begged the Israeli government to allow them to remain within Israel so that they may continue to support their families, for they know the Hamas, now considered a political party, is determined to control the whole of Israel and drive Israelis (Jews, Muslims, Christians who are Israeli citizens) into the sea.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, of course, has done his best to reassure his people that Gaza is just the beginning of change. He has clearly depicted his point by echoing the words of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei: ‘Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem.’ Meanwhile, Hamas has repeatedly threatened the safety of Israel, since Gaza is closer to many cities in Israel.
Unfortunately, the disengagement plan is a short term policy with long term strife for Israeli citizens. Gaza will be controlled by a violent and volatile government, while Israeli citizens pay the price.