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IDF'S 'LAST WATCH' IN GAZA STRIP

After Thirty-Eight Years, Israel Defense Forces Prepare To Withdraw From Gaza Strip

Palestinian Gunmen Continue Reign of Terror In Gaza

Rabbis Sway Israeli Cabinet Not To Demolish Remnants Of Gaza Synagogues

Synagogue in Gush Katif

After last month's evacuation of the settlements, the IDF is about to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The military has completed its preparations for Operation Last Watch the final evacuation. At a Jerusalem cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a majority of ministers spoke against demolishing synagogues in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Palestinians will likely desecrate after they take over. All the religious elements of the synagogues have been moved back to Israel and only the shells of the buildings remain. Initially, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz recommended the IDF raze the synagogues but rabbis in Israel and abroad protested vehemently. They argued on religious grounds as well as warning that if Israel demolished the synagogues it would serve as a precedent for the removal of ancient synagogues in foreign countries.

'Will Israel's total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip open a new era of reconciliation with the Palestinians? Or, will it be more of the same endless violence and bloodshed, perhaps even worse? Not only Israel, but also the international community is now waiting and watching. The Palestinians have a fresh opportunity to turn Gaza into a model for advancing to the Roadmap for their independent state, living at peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel. But it will not be enough for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas simply to make speeches about non-violence; Abbas will now have to start acting like a president and do what it takes to prevent any new terror attacks on Israel from Gaza. The stakes are extremely high.The international community has pledged some $3 billion dollars annually in financial aid and even the Arab and part of the Muslim world, for once, appear truly interested in supporting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian spokespersons continually plead that the Palestinians are weak, they need hope for the future and they are the victims of occupation; that these are the causes for the terrorism against Israel. Moreover, the conflict must be internationalized by imposing a settlement upon Israel. Surely now after Israel has ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip, with huge international economic aid and the Roadmap beckoning them if they drop the terror option, what else could the Palestinians ask for?

Palestinian Terrorists

But if Abbas will not or cannot carry out his 'one gun, one authority' motto, Israel has made clear the IDF will hit back hard. The massive foreign aid so vital for improving the well being of the more than one million Gaza residents will evaporate. The Roadmap peace negotiations will also go into the deep freeze and the Palestinian militias will likely vie with each other, chopping up what was to be the future Palestinian state. The Palestinian people will continue to live at the mercy of the Hamas and Jihad warlords who rule by the bullet and not the ballot. For its part, Israel will hunker down behind the West Bank and Gaza security fences and do what it takes to contain, if not eliminate, terror attacks. In light of the mounting anarchy, the Palestinian prospects for exploiting the opportunity to turn Gaza into a model of peaceful co-existence do not appear all that promising. If Mahmoud Abbas cannot control his own internal affairs, how is the 'President' going to rein in the terrorist gangs he refuses to dismantle. Their very existence obviously poses a terrorist option. Yasser Arafat was known to activate terrorism against Israel when he didn't get all he wanted through negotiations. He was a political pyromaniac who set the fires and then rushed in pretending to be the fireman who doused the flames. Abbas is believed to be sincere in opposing terrorism against Israel, but as long as he allows the terrorists to remain in tact, he permits them to use their guns, Qassams and explosives as they deem fit. This is the message the terrorists have been sending Abbas with the murder of Moussa Arafat and the other acts of lawlessness over the past fourty-eight hours. Likud challenger Bibi Netanyahu got it right recently when he said that 'democracy demands a monopoly on power', that power must be wielded solely by the lawful authorities and not by 'outlaws'.In the lawless Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Abbas is now faced with the daunting task of proving first and foremost to the Palestinian people, that governance like charity begins at home.

David Essing

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