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During August, the Israeli government unilaterally closed all of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip. Television and newspaper images were filled with pictures of devout Jews linking arms, chaining themselves and doing whatever they deemed necessary in order to hold onto their homes, synagogues and worldly possessions. However, despite the resistance, the government was successful in closing down the settlements and enabling a total withdrawal.

After the withdrawal, the 38 years of occupation officially ended in early September when the last of the Israeli solders left the area.

Why the pullout?

An article that appeared in the Stratfor-on-line provides some background on the pullout. “Israel’s first patron was the Soviet Union through its European satellites. Its second patron was France, which saw Israel as an ally during a time when Paris was trying to hold onto its interests in an increasingly hostile Arab world. Its third patron — but not until 1967 — was the United States, which saw Israel as a counterweight to pro-Soviet Egypt and Syria, as well as a useful base of operations in the eastern Mediterranean. Israel was now dependent on the United States for its industrial base. But American interests and Israeli interests were not identical. The United States had interests in the Arab world, and had no interest in Israel crushing Palestinian opposition or expelling Palestinians from Israel. Retaining the industrial base and ruthlessly dealing with the Palestinians became incompatible needs.”

The American interest in the Arab world is an obvious one – oil. Therefore, in order to placate these primary suppliers of oil, it was necessary to encourage Israel to pull out of Gaza. For its part, Israel has been spending millions of dollars each year protecting the Jewish settlers living in Gaza. There is thus an important economic incentive as well as the political one.

Arab reaction

Currently the neighboring Arab states are viewing the withdrawal as a win/win. It is a win that Jews are leaving this area and it is a win that they do not have to help absorb additional Palestinian refugees.

Stratfor-on-line once again repots that: “Neighboring Arab states, meanwhile, are viewing the withdrawal as an opportunity to relieve themselves of thousands of refugees who have drained their economies. Jordan, which hosts 1.8 million Palestinian refugees, made this clear when King Abdullah II said August 16 that no more Palestinian refugees would be resettled in his country. Lebanon, also desperate to rid itself of approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees, has negotiated with Fatah leaders for the transfer of thousands of Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. Along with these refugees, thousands of Palestine Liberation Organization fighters will come back into the Palestinian territories, raising the stakes for militancy in the region. These refugees will move into an area where virtually no jobs are available; unemployment stands at 26.3 percent in the Palestinian territories. The increased social discontent inevitably will lead to increased numbers of militant recruits in the region.

“Israel will not suffer an economic setback as a result of this action, as fewer than 1,000 Palestinians cross over from Gaza to work in Israel. In fact, Israel’s economy will continue to benefit from the goods sold in the Palestinian territories, which lack resources of their own.”

Next steps

Prime Minister Arial Sharon, speaking to the Washington Post newspaper on the eve of the army’s withdrawal from Gaza, reiterated his intention to retain large West Bank settlement blocs under any future peace deal and continue construction in them as Israel sees fit. “The major (settlement) blocs will stay as part of Israel…yes, we have small-scale construction within the lines…even now there is construction,” he said in comments likely to anger Palestinians who want the West Bank and Gaza for a state. Sharon, further said that Israel would scrap a few West Bank settlements for peace but would not cede its largest enclaves.

Some 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza and a corner of the West Bank need to be relocated as part of the withdrawal plan, but 245,000 Israeli’s live in 120 settlements in the West Bank, a home to about 2.4 million Palestinians.

As noted in editorial comments in the “Communications” section of this issue, we watch with fascination as the Lord continues the process of Israel’s regathering which assures us the establishment of the Kingdom is near at hand.

May our Lord return soon, is our prayer.

George Rayner

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