Israel Expects Most Settlers to Exit Gaza
With preparations underway for Ariel Sharon?s Disengagement Plan of the settlements in Gaza and some in the West Bank, one can expect the bulk of the residents of the Gaza Strip settlements to depart before the deadline in August. The disengagement is slated to begin on August 17 and, according to Israeli sources, is to take no more than two weeks; however, no set deadline has been issued for the withdrawal. However, there will surely be Haredi settlers (ultra-Orthodox Jews) who will attempt to delay the inevitable. Leaders of the Gaza settlements have promised non-violent resistance, but small groups of extremists will likely cause problems during the move back to Israel . Sharon has undertaken a balancing act, as he attempts to find a solution to the attacks on Israel by Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and in Gaza. Since Israel?s annexation of the West Bank and the occupation of the Gaza Strip after the 1967 War, this problem has increased to the point that one of Israel?s former hard-line generals is willing to trade land for peace and security. As Sharon?s Disengagement Plan moves forward, his government continues to negotiate with settlers over the terms of their relocation. Negotiations have included everything from where the settlers will move, the compensation for the settlers, and access to the Mediterranean. Israel has announced that the settlements will be demolished. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will move in bulldozers that for years have been used to demolish the homes of suicide bombers in Gaza. The bulldozers have been demolishing houses in the Silwa and Issiwiya neighborhoods of East Jerusalem of late. Arabs who illegally built these homes over 10 years ago without the proper zoning permits will be demolished. One major question no one has been able to answer yet is: what will become of the greenhouses in the settlements in Gaza that supply the markets of Israel with fresh flowers and ? more importantly — vegetables? The Palestinians would like to have the greenhouses to be able to put some of the masses of unemployed Palestinians to work. Some of the settlers have objected to giving the Palestinians anything and would rather have them demolished or taken down piece by piece and shipped back to Israel. This is one of the points still under negotiation. The demolition of the settlements and the taking apart and shipping back to Israel of the greenhouses could delay the Disengagement Plan and add additional danger for the soldiers assigned these duties. Some in the Israeli government want to bulldoze the settlements to ensure that Haredi settlers do not return after August. For example, in 2000, a West Bank settlement was evacuated, and Haredi settlers later moved in and still occupy this settlement. Israel also has undertaken preparations for massive protests against the government?s actions leading up to the removal of the settlers. Ultra-Orthodox groups have been preparing to make it harder for the IDF to move the settlers by blocking highways and tying up major roadways in Israel in August. But, all of these efforts will not deter Sharon from doing what he knows is needed to ensure security for Israel. The ?big man,? as the Palestinians refer to him, has made up his mind, and he will see his Disengagement Plan through; that much is certain.