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December 18, 1992 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-18

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Israelis Want To Abandon Gaza




uture historians look-
ing for watershed dates
important to the shift
now showing up in
Israeli public opinion on the
future of the occupied ter-
ritories should consider Dec.
8, 1992 — at least as far as
the Gaza Strip is concerned.
At 5 a.m. that day, three
Israeli reservists patrolling
a main road in Gaza — the
one that bypasses Gaza city
and its adjacent cluster of
refugee camps — were
gunned down by terrorists
from the Az-a-Din el-
Kassem group, an armed
wing of Hamas (the
Islamic Resistance Move-
Dec. 8 was the day prior to
the fifth anniversary of the
intifada, and Israel was nat-
urally braced for acts of
violence. In fact there had
been intermittent rioting in
the Gaza Strip — and atten-
dant deaths, injuries, and
curfews — for much of the
previous two weeks. There
had also been 20 unsuc-
cessful attempts at armed
attacks on soldiers during
the preVious weeks.
Yet when the news of the
shooting in Gaza was an-
nounced, something changed
in Israel. For the rest of the
week, the media was filled
with talk of the intifada and
specifinslly the situation in
Gaza. Experts analyzed the
situation on television. On
one radio talk show after the
next, young men — and their
parents — poured out their
hearts about the humiliation
of serving in Gaza, the
endless chasing of children
down alleyways, of being
subjected to stones and in-
sults while under orders to
exercise restraint, of the lim-
itations imposed by the
orders on opening fire.
Judging by the weekend
papers, every second Israeli
journalist was in Gaza last
week talking to Palestin-
ians, to "military sources,"
and above all to the soldiers
themselves. It must have
been the umpteenth time
that the Israel TV's Friday
night news magazine broad-
cast a long piece showing
soldiers patrolling in a refu-
gee camp and then sharing
their ambivalence, confu-
sion, revulsion, and fear
with the whole State of

Israel — and, of course, with
any Palestinians who might
be tuned in.
Yet this time their talk
had a new overtone: it was
painfully reminiscent of the
days, almost a decade back,
when the Israeli army was
stuck in the quagmire of
Lebanon and the death toll
of its soldiers rose steadily,
as public feeling ran strong-
ly toward pulling out as
quickly and abruptly as
possible. Now Gaza had the
the "smell of Lebanon about
it," as one journalist wrote
after spending a day there,
and the soldiers echoed that
"I sit in a jeep feeling like
a moving target," one mem-
ber of a reserve unit told an
interviewer from the news-
paper Hadashot. "This is go-
ing to get even worse be-
cause when a convoy pa-
trolled in Lebanon, civilians
were prohibited from
travelling on the road with
it. Here you can't bring the
life of an entire population to
a halt."
But the change emerging
in Israel was not just the re-
introduction of the dread
word "Lebanon" into the
lexicon of the Israeli mood.
The real turnabout was the
suggestion — raised by polit-
ical figures and journalists
alike — that Israel should
simply pull up stakes and

"Sarajevo in Gaza?
If (Palestinians)
chose to murder
themselves, that's
their problem."

Dan Margalit

unilaterally withdraw from
the Gaza Strip.
"In other times, such a
reaction would have been
considered madness," wrote
columnist Uzi Benziman in
Ha'aretz. "Who would have
imagined six or seven years
ago demanding a total
withdrawal from ad-
ministered territory, that
was captured in a just war,
because three IDF soldiers
had fallen there?"
Yet the idea has been seri-
ously placed on the public,

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Israelis check a Palestinian's ID.

and this week's kidnapping
of an Israeli border
policeman in Lod, near Tel
Aviv, by Hamas militants,
which capped a weekend in
which Gaza was rocked by
repeated clashes, and three
more Palestinians and an-
other Israeli soldier were
killed, is sure to fuel the
The idea was first broach-
ed this time around by
former Likud Defense Min-
ister Moshe Arens (an inter-
esting point in itself). Soon it
was picked up by Labor poli-
ticians and the press.
The New York Times re-
ported that Health Minister
Haim Ramon, a Laborite
who also raised this possibil-
ity five years ago when
Labor and Likud were in a
coalition government
together — said "there is
room to consider" a
unilateral pullout from Gaza
within "a year or two," and
that four other ministers at
the Rabin government's
weekly cabinet meeting
supported the idea.
A scenario published by
veteran columnist and
former Ma'ariv editor Dan
Margalit — who has never
been suspected of "defeatist"
sentiments —calls for the
government to announce
that Israel will pull out of
Gaza in 18 months without
asking for anything in
"Essentially (Israel) is in-
terested in leaving the Strip
immediately," he wrote,
"but it's prepared to wait
until the organization of a
self-ruling authority that,
with the aid of the Arab
world and the International
Monetary Fund, will find an

economic solution for the
Other aspects to the plan
are to put up an electric
fence around the Strip to
keep Gazans out of Israel, at
least until the achievement
of a permanent solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian prob-
lem. Gazans would be able to
travel overland to Egypt,
westward by sea, and
through a corridor directly
to Jordan. But Israel would
be strictly out of bounds.
As to the Arab reaction,
Mr. Margalit reasons that
the Palestinians and the rest
of the Arab world would
have a hard time publicly ob-
jecting to Israel's freely
relinquishing land con-
quered in 1967. It's also
natural to expect that the
moderate elements in the
PLO and members of the
Gazan commercial and in-
tellectual establishment
would be eager to accept
responsibility for ruling the
area. Yet even if the qualms
of many Israelis (and no few
Palestinians) that under
such circumstances Gaza
would become a "slaugh-
terhouse in a civil war
between the PLO and
Hamas" were borne out, Mr.
Margalit does not regard
that as Israel's affair.
"Sarajevo in Gaza?" he
writes. "If they chose to
murder themselves, that's
their problem."
Not that there wouldn't be
security problems for Israel.
Mr. Margalit takes into ac-
count continued terrorism,
despite the fence.
Don't expect action on
that any time soon. Still,
it's worthy of note.D

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