What if the Entire Israeli Community Staged a Mass Exodus from Gaza Now?

debkafile postulates a fictional scenario and likely consequences.
Just imagine if the 7,500 Israeli dwellers of the Gaza Strip decided tomorrow to pack their portable possessions, abandon their homes, schools, synagogues, cemeteries, playgrounds, farms and the lives they built and moved out in unison – without waiting for Ariel Sharon’s evacuation axe to fall next year.
They would leave their furniture and immovable property to the Israeli government and army to protect.
This act would pre-empt prime minister Sharon’s disengagement/evacuation pledge to dismantle their villages by September 2005; it would cut short the furious national debate over the rights and wrongs of their case and their passive resistance campaign; even make redundant the behavioral psychology coaching given to police and soldiers to prepare them for the agonizing task of forcible evictions.
Once settled in their temporary homes, the ex-settlers would send out two formal notices.
The first, would inform the Israeli government, president, Knesset and Evacuation Authority, that they had voluntarily evacuated their homes in the Gaza Strip in keeping with government and Knesset decisions. They and their families placed themselves henceforth in the care of the state, relying on its offer of enlarged compensation payments to voluntary leavers of the Gaza Strip. The state would be held responsible for their abandoned property.
The second, would petition the United Nations, more particularly the Refugees Commissioner and UNWRA – the Refugees Work and Relief Agency, on behalf of 7,500 men, women and many children, driven from their homes by round-the-clock mortar and rocket assaults, interspersed with sniper fire. They would note that Israel’s sovereign government and its army is not able or willing to protect them. As Jewish refugees from Gaza, they would claim from the world body the same relief as accorded any other group of refugees in flight from war zones.
They would then sit back and see what happened next. Why the inaction?
1. Because they have tried every possible publicity and campaign tactic and gimmick to promote their case – human chains, mass protests, house-to-house canvassing, lobbying party centers and parliament, urging servicemen to disobey orders and finally a non-violent campaign exhorting protesters to face prison rather than obey the evacuation law.
If they stay put for Sharon’s timetable, they will continue to be sitting ducks for Palestinian mortars as well as targets of recrimination from the prime minister’s adherents and the unsympathetic PC media.
It needs to be said that the Israelis living in Gaza Strip villages which a former Labor government built for them in the 1970s have all but lost their battle for majority Israeli public support. They never won much understanding anywhere else. Therefore, pulling up stakes by an act of will rather than compulsion will give them a chance to recover the popular sympathy they enjoyed in a different era, as well as earning American, European, Egyptian and Palestinian approbation.
2. Because by this act, the former settlers will circumvent the political machine and its media mouthpieces to expose the full scope of the Jewish evacuation program ahead of the Sharon government – and not only in the Gaza Strip.
In the first place, the prime minister’s constant harping on the statement that, come what may, his withdrawal plan will be carried out according to his predetermined timetable, is less for local consumption that for the White House, which is pushing for the dates to be brought forward. The voluntary evacuees will have seized the initiative from both sides to this argument. This victim/outcast group (depending on outlook) will have shown they are capable of unpredictable actions and therefore a force to be reckoned with rather than pawns on a big power game board.
In the second place, the tumble of events after an all-in-one withdrawal will refute Sharon’s assertion that relinquishing Gaza has guaranteed Israel’s retention of large settlement blocs in the West Bank, lead to secure borders more generous than the pre-1967 lines and contribute to Israel’s economic recovery.
These high hopes are not endorsed in Washington – as the prime minister knows very well.
On November 30 and December 20, Elliot Abrams, whom President Bush has designated next US ambassador to Israel, informed two audiences that Israeli settlements east of the current route of the defense barrier will have to be dismantled.
He was not just referring to the four small villages to be removed under the Sharon plan, but much more: Ariel (18,000 inhabitants), Maale Adummim (30,000), Efrat (7,300), Kiryat Arba (7,500) and their nearby villages. Abrams’ mission will be primarily to ascertain that these Jewish sites are removed from the West Bank.
This Bush plan is no secret. Abrams’ words were carried on December 19 by the New York publication Newsday and the next day by the Los Angeles Times. A full account appeared in the last DEBKA-Net-Weekly. An American official noted to debkafile: “The fact that hardly any Israelis know about this plan for lack of local media coverage will not stop the Bush administration from pushing it through as soon as Gush Katif is cleared.”
But if Gush Katif is evacuated now and abruptly, it will force the hand of the Bush administration on the West Bank and Israelis will very soon witness the crumbling of Sharon’s central policy theme. Wrenching 100,000 unwilling Israelis from their West Bank homes in places adjacent to the country’s population and industrial heartland is quite a different proposition from forcing a few thousand to leave the Gaza Strip.
In the third place, there is the Palestinian factor to be reckoned with.
debkafile has learned from its Palestinian sources that the relentless barrage plaguing Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip is not the work of Hamas alone. The wires are secretly pulled by Mahmoud Abbas who is bent on proving to the Palestinian electorate that he has not forsaken Arafat’s doctrine of terror and is committed to the “struggle” against Israel. At the same time, to placate the Americans, the Europeans and Sharon, he is allowing the level of terror emanating from the main theater of the West Bank to drop for the time being.
The Israeli prime minister, committed internationally to helping Abbas get elected, is turning a blind eye to this tactic in the hope that, once at the helm, the Palestinian leader will apply the brakes on Gazan violence. Meanwhile, he is pretending the Hamas alone is responsible for the trouble in Gaza although top Israeli commanders have told him that Fatah and al Aqsa Brigades gunmen are shooting at Israeli locations together with Hamas.
Whereas in 2000, Sharon’s predecessor Ehud Barak let Jerusalem’s Gilo residents be held hostage by Arafat’s gunners, the incumbent prime minister is allowing Gush Katif to be held hostage by Abu Mazen’s missile and mortar crews. The argument heard in official circles in Jerusalem these days is: “It’s only until the Palestinian election on January 9 is over.”
The assumption is that once in office, Abbas will rein in the terrorists. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen; it could be a misapprehension like the misreading by Barak and Shimon Peres of Arafat’s motives, when they expected him to respond to concessions by holding his fire.
Who can be sure that Abbas will not activate violence on one Palestinian front or another to gain political rewards, such as Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state?
He launched his election campaign in Ramallah Saturday, December 25, with the announcement that Israel’s pullback from Gaza was only step one of its full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines including Jerusalem.
This hostage game, the Gush Katif settlers cannot win. It would be more sensible for them to set up house temporarily in Jerusalem and be ready for the last stand.
The exodus of Israeli inhabitants would confront Sharon with a Palestinian rush to seize Gush Katif. It will then be up to him to decide whether to order the troops to fall back and thus surrender Israeli control of its border with Egypt on the Philadelphi route, or expel the Palestinians and drive them back into Rafah, Khan Younes and Deir al Balakh. It he opts of the first, the Palestinians will have the satisfaction of forcing Israeli troops to retreat under fire: if the second, combat will continue. In either case, little would be left of the illusion that the Palestinians have changed and that peace is around the corner.

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