No Grace in Gaza

Aside from the unrest and constant turmoil in Iraq, the recent return of Gaza to the Palestinians has raised an important and imminent issue regarding peace in the region. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well as the parliament of Israel have approved a withdrawal plan in which approximately eight thousand Israeli settlers will have to leave Gaza.

In the recent week, despite many protests and Israeli resistance, the settlers went forth with the pullout from the territory that Israel first captured in 1967. While this move initially seems monumental and in favor of the Palestinian state, many neglect the hostile background and unfair conditions under which Israel has allowed this.

While it can be somewhat distressing to watch images of families being evicted from their home, it is important to acknowledge the undisputable fact that these settlements have been illegally built according to international law.

The Israeli settlers will each receive up to half a million dollars in compensation for their cooperation.

The settlers have also destroyed all of the structures in the area turning the region into ruins of rubble and garbage, not the same land that was first settled.

Another valid concern of Palestinian critics is that Gaza will still remain under Israeli control, and this has already become evident in that Palestinians have been denied political say in the disengagement process.

Despite the pullout, Israel still occupies and maintains control of land, air, sea, water supply and even prisons.
Palestinians will not be supplied with an international peace keeping force and Israelis will remain in control of the borders and surrounding areas. Furthermore Israel has displayed a less than favorable attitude towards Gaza.

The late Itzhak Rabin prior to signing the Oslo agreement said of Gaza, “If only it could sink into the sea,” referring to both the land and at the time its over one million inhabitants.

The population of Gaza is expected to multiply in coming years making it virtually unmanageable and extremely over-populated, making it undesirable.

Sharon certainly does not consider Gaza crucial to Israel and with settlers out of Gaza he can easily consolidate controlling areas of the West Bank where a vast majority, approximately 240,000 Jewish settlers, live.

The international community began to praise Sharon for his delayed effort in returning Gaza, however this comes at a time in which the community has been harshly criticizing him for his violent past and violations of international law. Recently five Palestinian men were shot dead by Israeli soldiers, while both sides agree that the men were unarmed, Israel claims that these men may have had links to past violence; regardless these men were killed prior to an arrest or even a trial. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, said that the recent atrocity “undermines peace.”

The return of Gaza will not promise peace, and it is clear that tension and violence will remain a hindrance to any change in the direction of peace. Check- points throughout the area will remain, as will random raids and seizures and curfews that Palestinians have to abide by.

A realistic outlook regarding the current situation only reveals a Palestinian people ill- equipped to develop because Israel maintains hold over roadways and security enforcing a constant lockdown on towns.

The Palestinian situation cannot improve under these disadvantageous and unfortunate circumstances. It is important for the international community to understand that this recent gesture requires much more and that the true test of Israeli’s compliance lies ahead and not in the well overdue return of Gaza.