Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Remembering Gush Katif"

Arlene Kushner

It is now three years since the expulsion of Jews from the communities of Gush Katif in the southern Gaza Strip and other communities in the northern Strip. This was likely the single most shameful act in Israel's history and has wrought nothing but misery in all respects. What has been the result with regard to the Hamas takeover is there for all the world to see.Drawing less attention is the plight of those who were taken from their homes, many of whom remain in temporary quarters and have been slighted by the government in critical ways.

It is my experience that the residents of these communities are among the most Zionist in the nation, demonstrating courage and the most admirable of values. Their situation should not be ignored.

There are reports from Arabs who worked for these Jews in agricultural ventures that the communities -- most notably Netzer Hazani -- built with such devotion, have been razed so completely that nothing remains but the sand from which they rose.

The residents of the Gush Katif communities aspire not only to build again, but ultimately to return to Gaza. I applaud this.

Hopefully in time there will be the opportunity to explore this on-going situation in greater depth.


According to Haaretz, Olmert has offered the Palestinians a "peace plan": 93% of Judea and Samaria. The question of Jerusalem to be left up in the air for now. And a passage between Gaza and the West Bank area to be permitted only if Fatah were to re-take Gaza.


It was obvious that this wouldn't fly: The Palestinians are not about to compromise -- cannot compromise with Hamas setting the agenda. Just days ago PA prime minister, Salaam Fayyad had said that the chances of a peace deal were "nonexistent."

(More on Fayyad below.)


And sure enough, Abbas has already rejected the offer.

What Abbas's spokesman said was:

"The Israeli proposal is not acceptable. The Palestinian side will only accept a Palestinian state with territorial continuity, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, without settlements, and on the June 4, 1967 boundaries."

Got that? June 4, 1967 boundaries. What he's referring to are armistice lines, not boundaries at all. But the point is that there is no compromise. And can be no deal.

The spokesman said that Israel's proposal was "a waste of time."

An Israeli official, cited by Haaretz and speaking on condition of anonymity, actually said something similar. Explaining that Olmert was merely trying to establish his legacy, he declared:

"There is going to be no agreement, period."


Back to Fayyad, who recently said:

"The whole world must know that ending the conflict requires an end to the Israeli occupation of the lands that were occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem. We don't distinguish between a settlement that was built today and one that was built 35 years ago."

Please know, Fayyad is considered by far the most moderate of the PA leaders.

The Palestinians, he declared, won't make any more concessions. More?

He is, he says, incensed by our treatment of the West Bank and Gaza as two separate entities -- as if this is our invention, designed to split the people. The hard reality is that there are two entities and two peoples.


Fayyad is proposing a new, transitional government for the PA that includes neither members of Fatah nor of Hamas, to govern until there are elections. I don't imagine this will play well.

He says the position he currently holds in the PA government is his last -- he has no intention of continuing and is putting to rest rumors that he will run for president.


Khaled Abu Toameh has reported in the Post that Ahmed Qurei, who is head of the PA negotiating team, was in Washington recently and came away discouraged by the administration's unwillingness to put further pressure on Israel. Seems we're not "flexible" enough and need to make more far-reaching concessions.

Reportedly, Rice told Qurei that the Bush administration has itself concluded that a peace agreement will not be possible this year. There is unease about pressuring Olmert because it may backfire on Kadima's chances to form a new coalition after Olmert resigns. If Kadima fails to do this, and we go to elections, the chances of further negotiations taking place are a great deal slimmer.


Meanwhile, two days ago Qurei proposed something else. Likely a bargaining ruse from his side, it absolutely wouldn't play from ours in any terms. If, he declared, Israel won't pull back to the '67 lines and make a Palestinian state in everything beyond the Green Line a reality, then it will become time to work on one-state solution, with the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria demanding residency Blue Cards. A disaster in the making.


WAFA, the Palestinian news agency reported today that Egypt is going to be inviting all Palestinian factions to Cairo for dialogue as of next week.


Regularly now, the "ceasefire" is being broken by rockets fired on Israel from Gaza. Yesterday a rocket fell near a kindergarten in Sderot.


In relation to this, it is important to note a stance Defense Minister Ehud Barak seems to be taking now. While forever stalling, he has repeatedly made comments about the fact that a major military operation in Gaza is not far away. But now he's shifted.

In an interview on TV on Sunday, he said that even if the IDF went into Gaza and destroyed Hamas, "down to the last office and the last activist," in the end "we would have to achieve a truce, and we would have to deal with the same parties as before."

This is a reason to not go in? Excuse me, but this is one of the stupidest statements from a military man I've yet to hear. Sure you have to deal with your enemy after you defeat him. But the point is that you'd be dealing with him from the vantage of having vanquished him and the parameters of a truce would be decidedly different.

We also, it should be noted, would increase deterrence power across the board if we took out Hamas, giving many others serious pause.

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