Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided in late 2003 that it was doing Israel little good to continue its occupation of the Gaza Strip, and put forth complete withdrawal plans. By the end of August, 2005, the last of the twenty-one Jewish settlements in Gaza had been evacuated, and the remaining Israeli soldiers pulled out in the first couple weeks of September.
This was great, the first step to a lasting peace. In this story on National Public Radio, Nigel Roberts of the World Bank tells Renee Montagne about rebuilding prospects and obstacles to economic recovery. Mr Roberts was concerned about the high unemployment in Gaza, especially among 16-24 year old men.
But while Gaza lacks much in the way of infrastructure, it has one amazing natural resource that could have been easily developed and brought in billions of euros: Gaza has the kind of beaches that ought to attract wealthy European travellers — and their money — if they’d just clean them up and build some decent hotels and resorts. And tourism is easily the resource that could be most rapidly developed and bring in the most foreign capital of anything the Palestinians have.
Oh, one other thing: the Palestinians would have to stop shooting across the border at Israel; Israel doesn’t put up with that crap, and it’s hard to develop a decent beach resort if it’s subject to being bombed.
60 Gazans Killed in Incursion By IsraelÂ¹
Operation Follows Use of Longer-Range Rockets by Hamas
By Griff Witte, Washington Post Foreign Service
JERUSALEM, March 1 — The Israeli military launched a major operation against Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing 60 people — about half of them civilians — and sending in a large contingent of ground troops to stop rockets streaming daily out of the territory into southern Israel.
The violence, which also resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers, imperiled an already fragile peace process just days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive to try to jump-start the flagging talks. Both sides indicated Saturday that the intensified conflict could cause the negotiations to collapse. That would mark a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which has made Middle East peace a top priority for its final year.
The fighting Saturday was the worst yet following a significant escalation Wednesday. In the four days since an Israeli missile destroyed a van carrying five Hamas members suspected of plotting an attack inside Israel, 94 Palestinians have been killed and more than 300 have been injured, according to hospital sources in Gaza. During the same period, at least 180 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel, causing one death and 11 injuries, the Israeli military said.
Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks and suggested that peace talks should be halted until the violence subsides. They also warned that Israel’s tactics would backfire by radicalizing the Palestinian population.
“It is beyond comprehension,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. “What they are doing is pushing people beyond their limits. They are creating a very strong reaction among the people, so the people will become more desperate and hard-line. Israel is not securing its own interests by this kind of massive killing.”
Israeli officials have warned that there will be more to come and that operations may intensify, as long as Hamas continues to fire its rockets. Israeli officials say they are especially concerned that Iranian-made rockets began landing in Ashkelon in the past week. The coastal city has a population of 120,000, and with its center about six miles north of Gaza, it had previously been out of range of the crude Qassam rockets that have been the mainstay of Hamas attacks. On Saturday, seven more rockets with greater range and lethality, known as Grads, landed there.
Much more at the link. But it’s difficult for me to generate much sympathy for the Palestinians. Israel withdrew, unilaterally, without any pre-conditions, from Gaza. The Israeli government, in effect, gave the Palestinians every chance to show what they could do — and would do — with an independent state. Would they develop it, would they try to build something in which their poor people would have a chance at increased prosperity? Or would they use the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers as an opportunity to increase terrorist attacks against Israel?
It should have been an easy choice. The Palestinians had complete control of their own destiny in Gaza. Israel wasn’t going to interfere — and was actually providing Gaza with food and power — and the Palestinians living there could have proved to Israel and to the world that there was no reasonable risk from granting them their own state, that all they really wanted was peace and a chance to live their lives without Israeli checkpoints and Israeli occupation and Israeli interference.
But Palestinian logic is apparently somewhat different from democratic Western thinking. Rather than do what Westerners naturally thought was the reasonable, safe and easy thing to do, the Palestinians took another path: they used the withdrawal of Israeli troops as an opportunity to launch more terror attacks against Israel. And now comes the most pathetic, most laughable, statement of all, from The Washington Post story:
Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks.
Well, duhhh! If the Palestinians hadn’t been shooting rockets into Israel, if they hadn’t started using longer ranged rockets to try to terrorize Israeli citizens, Israel wouldn’t be striking back, Israel wouldn’t be trying to knock out the Hamas terrorists.
If “Palestinian leaders” want Israel to stop striking back, then they need to keep their own irredentists from picking fights.
As Abba Eban famously said, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Â¹ – The Washington Post, Sunday, 2 March 2008, p. A-1