Palestinians rejoice at the decision of the Israeli government to evacuate the Jewish settlements
On August 15 Israel started implementing its decision to withdraw 17 Jewish settlements from Gaza Strip and four settlements from the West Bank of Jordan. The Israeli government decided to do it despite numerous protests from settlers themselves and their proponents. Palestinians celebrate victory, attacking the abandoned settlements with automatic fire. It seems that there is still no reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.
The entry to the Gaza Strip has been denied for all Israeli citizens today. All passages and roads there have been blocked, although thousands of Orthodox Jews are trying to make their way on the territory of their settlements. Demonstrations of protest continue for three weeks already. Incidents occur despite the assurance from the chairman of the Israeli Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. Hundreds of young people from the settlement of Neve Dekalim blocked all entries to the settlement and went out to combat the troops. A group of unidentified people cut tyres of several military SUVs near the Kisufim checkpoint at night, Cursor news agency reports.
Palestinians add more fuel to the fire too. In spite of the efforts of the Palestinian Authority administration to toughen security measures, extremists fired grenades at the settlement of Gadid in the central part of the Gaza Strip at dawn. Israel warned in return that the pullout would be suspended, if similar incidents continued to occur. Settlers say that Israeli soldiers act as looters. Residents of the settlement of Kfar Hayam refused to leave: they declared the Jewish autonomy for their village, which would not subordinate to Israeli authorities.
The evacuation process can be described as follows. If a certain family refuses to leave, they will be forced to move out, although the compensation for the lost property will be considerably cut in this case. Israeli military men deliver written instructions to Jewish settlers to complete the evacuation before August 17. According to The Jerusalem Post, 1127 of 1716 families from the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and the four settlements in the West Bank have already agreed to abandon their homes before August 17. About 600 more families will apparently have to be evacuated by force, the newspaper wrote.
In the meantime, Palestinians rejoice at the decision of the Israeli government to evacuate the Jewish settlements. The Palestinian police attempted to take the deserted towns under their control, whereas Fatah, the ruling movement in Palestine, agreed with radical leaders from Hamas to observe the evacuation process together. One of the Hamas leaders, Khaled Mashaal, said in an interview to the Al-Hayat newspaper that the armed struggle with Israel would continue until the Jewish state is entirely destroyed. “The start of the demarcation plan marks the beginning of the end for Israel,” Khaled Mashaal said. “The people of Palestine will continue fighting until the West Bank and Jerusalem are liberated. We cannot even imagine that our people can give up fighting, which has already made the Zionist enemy to retreat,” said he.
In the meantime, Israel suffers from a political crisis. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who used to participate in the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967, appeared on national television in the evening. “The day has come. We are beginning this most painful and difficult step -the evacuation of our settlements from Gaza and northern Samaria. This step is difficult for me personally, and the government approved the disengagement with a heavy heart,” Sharon said in a pre-recorded, televised address to the nation to coincide with the pullout.
The head of the Israeli government also said that the decision should not be interpreted as a manifestation of Israel's weakness. Ariel Sharon added that Israel would continue taking tough measures in return to terrorist attacks, if Palestine continued running subversive activities against Israel. “We are taking this step (pullout) from a position of strength, not weakness. We have tried to reach agreements with the Palestinians that would drive both nations toward peace, but these agreements were shattered on the walls of hatred and fanaticism. The unilateral disengagement plan is Israel’s response to this reality. The plan is good for Israel in any future scenario. We are reducing the daily friction and victims on both sides. The IDF will redeploy along defense borders behind the security fence. Those who will continue to fight us will confront the IDF and the security forces at full force," the Israeli PM said.
Sharon's associates from Likud party with a former PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the head asked four ministers to quit the government, which is referred to as the government of deportation. Jewish settlers in Gaza continue to declare their independence of Palestine, saying that they will remain Israeli citizens and stick to the norms of international rights. The situation on the West Bank of Jordan is more peaceful: there are fewer Jewish settlements there, and their residents do not refuse to leave them: the settlements of Ganim and Kadim have been evacuated completely already.
The situation in Gaza is a lot more complicated. Only nine of 40 families have agreed to leave the settlement of Nisanit. Over 700 families have already left their homes in Gaza, although this number makes only 20 percent.
Most likely, Israel's peace initiative will not let the feuding parties achieve any progress in the solution of the conflict in the middle East. Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, stated that the organization should bid farewell to the practice of anti-Israeli resolutions: "It is time for the United Nations to acknowledge Israel's actions," Gillerman said. "We hope that in the United Nations there will be no more business as usual as far as the Middle East is concerned... No more Israel-bashing, no more ongoing resolutions which keep repeating themselves time after time," the ambassador said.