Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Goodbye, Gaza
This is an historic day for the Palestinians, who are essentially the last landless people on the planet (unless you count the Basques, Cypriots and Kurds, who are part of a country but don't want to be...) For the first time in nearly 40 years, they will control at least the majority of their destiny (Israel still controls the water and air rights over Gaza, and probably just about everything else that's worth much of anything). Anyway, here's hoping Abbas and Co. make the most of it. BTW I guess nothing ever came of that settler teen mass suicide threat... Israel also pulled out of two tiny West Bank settlements today. (Good Reuters story with great pics)

It's probably helpful to keep a sense of proportion about all this. The Gaza Strip was home to about 8,000 Jewish settlers, living in the midst of more than 1.3 million Palestinians, crammed into 360 square kilometers of land along the Mediterranean. The settlers living in the Gaza outposts include some of the most hardline right wing religious settlers, many from the U.S., and many of whose transport to Gaza was paid either by extreme right wing groups in the U.S., or by Ariel Sharon in a former life. They're getting about $300,000 apiece to move back inside Israel's legal borders, and off the land which under U.N. rules, is being illegally settled by an occupying country. On the Palestinian side, nearly half the population is aged 14 or under, poverty is rampant, emeliorated by the relatively rich Hamas militants, who dole out food and largesse Gambino-style, along with entreaties to bomb Israel back into the stone age.

By pulling out, Israel gets rid of an expensive problem -- sustaining a handful of fanatics who require a tremendous force ratio to secure them, not to mention the myriad checkpoints required to allow Jews to get from one place to another (and which restrict Palestinians from doing the same). (Many in the IDF have concluded themselves that it just wasn't worth it...) But the risk is that Hamas takes over Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas loses control. Israel hopes neighboring Egypt will help with security, and Sharon hopes he lasts long enough in power to get it done, along with probably token withdrawals from the West Bank. Lest you think Sharon has suddenly found his softer side, I'd wager he plans to hold on to the vast majority of the W. Bank, along with all of Jerusalem, inlcuding historically Arab East Jerusalem, in exchange for handing over Gaza...

More info: CIA World Factbook
posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
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