ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Gaza and Bethlehem First

Gaza and Bethlehem First

20 August 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

It is an understanding, not an agreement.  Israeli forces are to leave areas taken from the Palestinians since September 2000 in Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip and the first moves towards moving the clock back to the period before the Palestinian initiated violence.  In Gaza Israeli forces have encroached a few hundred meters here and there but nothing significant.  As for Bethlehem, Israeli forces need to withdraw from the city (except the Tomb of Rachel area) and redeploy.  Neither withdrawal is significant militarily. 

On the diplomatic front the moves are of some importance since this is the first direct meeting between Israelis and Palestinians since the failed Taba talks in January 2001 just before Sharon won the premiership.  In return for the withdrawals the Palestinian Authority is obligated to stop the terror attacks against Israel.  Already this morning one suicide bomber was killed before completing his mission and battles in the Gush Katif area of the Gaza Strip have erupted when Palestinians opened fire.

The Palestinian Authority is making moderate noises in part but the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the El-Aksa Brigades and the Democratic Front have all announced their opposition to any understanding and have promised to do their best to continue the armed struggle.  As for Chairman Arafat himself, he has refused to be directly involved hoping to get credit no matter what happens.  If the understanding works out he will take the credit as a man of peace and if it does not he can say I told you so and continue the battle.

The chances of the understanding working are slight, there are simply too many Palestinian organizations interested in its demise.  If Arafat wanted its success he would stand behind these latest moves for reconciliation and make sure his security forces rooted out terror.

But he refuses and that brings us back to the old Arafat policies of half a year ago.