“The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” A

prophetic declaration by a former Israeli diplomat. Reading and listening to Arab

comments both in and outside the Palestinian government while the Israelis 

left Gaza unfortunately leads me to believe that history is repeating itself.


      In leaving Gaza, Israel made a generous gesture towards peace. Over

8,000 settlers  left their homes or had been dragged away by Israeli soldiers,

often kicking and screaming. At the request of the Palestinian Authority, thousands

of houses in Gaza were bulldozed. Israel’s ruling political party, Likud, has lost its

majority since opting for withdrawal.  In short, a supreme sacrifice has been made.


      What has been the Palestinian response? In an Nightline episode, Ted

Koppel commented wryly that not even an hour of thanks and appreciation has

been given Israel for this gesture. Instead, Hamas and other militants have been

boasting that they drove out the Isrraelis, that their terrorist activities have worked,

and that these acts will continue until Israel meets all Arab demands. Many  go

further, claiming that a return to the 1967 lines is not enough, that Israel must be

completely removed from Arab lands.


       This all-or-nothing-at-all attitude is sad. More important, it is dangerous.

Granted that Israel’s departure from Gaza might not have been totally unselfish.

[How many of any of our actions are totally selfless?] Still, if any of us do a good

deed and are rewarded with malevolence rather than gratitude, which of us would

be willing to make additional benign gestures?


       Gaza, with the aid of the United States and Arab countries, could have developed

into a highly successful and profitable tourist area similar to Egypt’s development in

Sharm Al Sheikh, providing employment and prosperity to its inhabitants.

Developing green-house farming, duplicating what the Israelis had done, could

have led  to a successful economy. Gazans could have make their territory a beautiful

oasis, an example of what a future Palestinian state could look like.


       But this can only be achieved if there is security, and security can only be

assured if the Palestinian National Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas,

get Hamas  to cease and desist from terrorist acts.  Even the cease-fire recently brokered by Egypt seems to be falling apart. Israelis fought Israelis to force them to depart from Gaza. If needed, will Arabs fight Arabs to see that Gaza remains peaceful and grows and prospers?


            Since  central authority was not exercised . Hamas took over and,

using Israel’s refusal to totally return to the 1967 lines as a casus belli, resumed

rocket attacks and suicide bombing forays. Israel has of course retaliated.

Aggravated by resentment at lack of gratitude, the retaliation can be ferocious.


       Unless the Palestinian National Authority prevails in Gaza, this writer fears

even worse results. The doubts of Benjamin Netanyahu on the wisdom of the Gaza

withdrawal will prove prescient. Gaza will turn into a center for continuing

terrorism. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, Hizbullah and other

extremist will use it as a staging ground. Al-Qaida troublemakers will gleefully join

the fray The world will have another Iraq, another Afghanistan.


       If the Palestinians really want their own state, they will consider the return of

Gaza as the starting point for a compromise solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,

Their own Palestinian state will be just around the comer. Unfortunately, if there is a

word for “compromise” in the Arabic language, it is apparently never used by their

spokesmen. If Palestinians continue to pursue this all-or-nothing-at-all approach,

they may very well end up with nothing. Possibly not even Gaza.


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