Gaza Strip Pull-Out

On Tuesday, October 26, the Knesset, Israel's parliament votes to give up control over the Gaza Strip, the small strip of land acquired by Israel in the course of the 1967 Six-Day War.

The vote has polarized the country and the ruling Likud party into camps that approved the withdrawal and those who virulently opposed to the pull-out.

Controversy:

1) Surrender?

Israeli hardliners claimed the pull-out amounts to a surrender to Palestinian militant groups like Hamas.

Although Hamas has much influence in the Gaza Strip, Sharon has argued that the Palestinian Authority has large forces in Gaza that have been almost unharmed by Israeli operations.

2) Line of defense.

Israeli Gaza settlers contend that their communities constitute a line of defense for the country, absorbing attacks by Palestinian militants that would otherwise be directed at towns and cities within Israel. . 

3) Preemptive Decision.

Sharon argued that if Israel does nothing, the country will come under increasing international pressure to give up even more land.

4) Delays the creation of Palestinian state.

Sharon said the Gaza plan could delay Palestinian dreams of statehood for many years.  (The Road Map envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005).

5) Gaza in exchange for the West Bank.

Palestinians fear that this is an Israeli ruse to trade Gaza for a permanent hold over most of the West Bank.

Indeed Sharon has used this argument to reassure the right wing that if the Gaza pullout goes ahead as planned, Israel will have a much stronger case for hanging on to large settlement blocks in the West Bank.  The Israeli settlers don't believe him.

6) The "Death Strip."

Mothers of Israeli soldiers stationed to the area call the region the "Death Strip" because of the dozens of young soldiers killed while defending the Gaza settlements.  Supporters of the pull-out claim that holding on to the Gaza strip harms rather than enhances Israel's security.

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ISRAELI PROPONENTS

Polls have shown that the majority of Israelis supported Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

1) Peace

Proponents believed that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza would rejuvenate peace talks with the Palestinians (which have been stalled for months) and move Israel forward in areas of security, economy, education and industry. 

2) Relations with the United States

Proponents expected the pull-out to strengthen relationship with the U.S.
Bush endorsed the plan in April and added that Israel had the right to retain some West Bank land in a future peace deal.

ISRAELI OPPONENTS

1) Opponents believe a withdrawal would create an endless spiral of Arab desire to take all the land of Israel.

2) Opponents also claimed the plan amounted to a "prize for terrorism." 

 

BACKGROUND

n mid-May 2004, Ariel Sharon let the members of the Likud Party vote on plans to evacuate all 21 Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank.  The pull-out was expected to uproot more than 7,500 Jewish settlers living among 1.3 million Palestinians in the area.

The pull-out referendum was defeated after roughly 60% of the eligible 193,000 Likud voters voted against Sharon's plan.

On May 15, more than 100,000 Israelis rallied in favor of the pull-out after a bloody week left 32 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. The rally was one of the largest by Israel's "peace camp" since Yitzhak Rabin's death.

 

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