(Updated August 2, 2005)
Israel has announced its intention to disengage from the Gaza Strip and dismantle all settlements there in the hope of improving the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. If the Palestinians were sincere about their desire for peace in exchange for land, they would do everything possible to allow for a peaceful transition. Instead, terrorists continue to attack Israeli soldiers and Jews in Gaza, try to infiltrate Israel to carry out suicide attacks, and fire deadly rockets at communities inside Israel.
Israel tried to negotiate a withdrawal from Gaza, as well as the West Bank, in exchange for peace, but even after withdrawing from 80 percent of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians continued to engage in terror.
The Islamic fundamentalists, led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have consistently maintained that they would not be content with an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza; their goal is to destroy the Jewish state, which they believe cannot exist in the Islamic heartland.
In the course of the evacuation, 1,700 families in 21 communities will be uprooted at a cost of nearly $900 million. This includes 166 Israeli farmers who produce $120 million in flowers and produce. Approximately 15 percent of Israel's agricultural exports originate in Gaza, including 60 percent of its cherry tomato and herb exports. Israel will also lose 70 percent of all its organic produce, which also is grown in Gaza.
Thirty-eight synagogues will be dismantled and 47 graves will have to be relocated. A total of 42 daycare centers, 36 kindergartens, seven elementary schools, and three high schools will be closed. It will cost approximately $500 million to relocated military bases outside Gaza and build new crossing facilities.
Once Israel withdraws, Palestinians in Gaza will have complete autonomy over their lives. Rather than prepare for self-government and peaceful relations with Israel, however, the Palestinian Authority has been unable to establish order. Meanwhile, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been preparing for further warfare by building rockets and smuggling weapons across the Egyptian border, reinforcing the fear of many Israelis that once the evacuation is complete the terrorists will escalate the violence against Jews within Israel.
Since September 2004, nearly 500 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel. On the eve of the Sukkot holiday (September 29, 2004), two Israeli children, ages two and four, were murdered by a Kassam rocket fired at their home in southern Israel by Hamas terrorists. No nation would tolerate such attacks on its population.
The Palestinian Authority has thousands of security personnel in the Gaza Strip who could stop the rocket fire and arrest the terrorists. Instead, the PA continues to incite more violence and then complains to the international community when Israel protects its citizens.
Even as Israel takes military action to defend its population by going after the terrorists, smuggling tunnels and bomb factories, it is trying to minimize the injury to innocent Palestinians who have allowed the murderers to live in their midst. Special humanitarian officers now accompany every battalion serving in the Gaza Strip and guidelines have been issued relating to the maintenance of key services and the flow of Palestinian ambulances in and out of combat areas.
Egypt has a vital role to play to insure that Gaza develops into a peaceful Palestinian enclave. Egypt must prevent Palestinians from smuggling weapons and contraband across its border; otherwise, Gaza will become a terrorist haven that will pose a threat to Israel. Despite the danger posed by introducing Egyptian troops into the Sinai, a step that is limited under the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, Israel agreed to allow the deployment of 750 Egyptian national guards along the “Philadelphi Route” (the border area separating Egypt and the Gaza Strip)
Nearly half a million Palestinians live in eight Gaza refugee camps. When Israel controlled the area, it consistently tried to move them into permanent housing, but was condemned for doing so by Arab-sponsored UN resolutions. The Palestinian Authority has controlled these camps now for a decade and, despite receiving $6 billion in international aid, has not made any effort to dismantle the camps or build a single home for even one refugee family.
Israel and the Palestinians mutually agreed that the settlement buildings would be razed after disengagement because the PA said it needed to build different types of structures to house the refugees. They will have no excuse for failing to move some or all of the Palestinians out of camps into permanent housing after Israel withdraws.