boo hoo 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Five years after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip,
Palestinians living there are still waiting for the housing projects and
factories the international community promised them.
The areas where most
of the settlements once stood have yet to be transformed into apartments and
working places for thousands of unemployed Palestinians who used to work in the
Promises that the Gaza Strip would be turned into the
Middle East’s Hong Kong or Singapore sound today like a joke to many
These promises were made on the eve of the disengagement by
many governments and leaders all around the world, including Israel.
hard today to find one Palestinian who would point to anything positive that has
come out of the pullout. In fact, Palestinians across the political spectrum
agree that the situation inside the Gaza Strip is not much better than it was
before the disengagement.
The Palestinian Authority continues to argue
that the unilateral disengagement was one of the reasons why Hamas is in power
today. Not that the PA didn’t want Israel to leave the Gaza Strip.
idea of an Israeli withdrawal [from the Gaza Strip] was good,” said a PA
official in Ramallah.
“But the way it was carried out – unilaterally –
was a mistake because it strengthened Hamas.” Indeed, Hamas continues to take
credit for “driving” Israel out. Leaders and spokesmen of the Islamist movement
insist that the suicide bombing campaign and the Kassam rockets were the main
reason behind Israel’s decision to “run away” from Gaza.
Palestinians and Arabs seem to share the view that Israel fled because of the
suicide and rocket attacks. This is perhaps one of the reasons why a majority of
them voted for Hamas a few months later.
The January 2006 parliamentary
election which brought Hamas to power was not only about internal reforms and
financial corruption, but also about the conflict with Israel. Taking credit for
the Israeli pullout, Hamas argued that violence was the only language it
understood. The peace talks, Hamas explained to the Palestinians, did not bring
them as much as the suicide bombings and rockets have.
disengagement sent a message to Palestinians that if you negotiate with Israel,
you don’t get as much as you do as when you kill Jews,” said another PA
official. “Ariel Sharon made a huge mistake when he refused to coordinate the
withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority or any other party.” The PA official,
who served as a close adviser to Mahmoud Abbas at the time, says that many
Palestinians are still convinced that Sharon’s real intention was to undermine
"Sharon did not want the Palestinian Authority to succeed in the
Gaza Strip and that’s why he refused to deal with us before the withdrawal,” the
official claimed. “Sharon wanted to see Hamas in power so that he could tell the
world that the Palestinians are not interested in a state and that their only
intention is to destroy Israel.”
ACCORDING TO the PA and various sources
in the Gaza Strip, Hamas is today much stronger than it was five years ago. If
disengagement was regarded a moral victory for the movement, Israel’s departure
from the Philadelphi Corridor along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
has enabled Hamas to smuggle in large amounts of weapons of various
Hamas became so strong that in the summer of 2007, exactly three
years ago, its militias and gangs managed to kick the PA out of the Gaza
PA and Fatah officials say that were it not for Israel’s hasty and
withdrawal, Hamas would have never been able to build such a huge
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s new plan for a further
disengagement, where Israel would stop supplying the Gaza Strip with
electricity, has left both Hamas and the PA wondering about Israel’s
The Palestinians’ biggest fear is that “disengagement 2”
would solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and make
permanent. They see the new plan as an Israeli attempt to create a
Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip that would be completely cut off
“Israel wants to turn the Gaza Strip into a small Palestinian
state,” charged Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel. “This is a dangerous
because it’s also designed to absolve Israel of its responsibilities as
As far as the PA is concerned, the first disengagement
was a disaster because it boosted Hamas’s popularity and paved the way
movement’s victory in the 2006 election and its subsequent violent
the Gaza Strip.
For Hamas, “disengagement 2” is bad because it would
further isolate the Islamist regime. Hamas is worried that a complete
disengagement would prompt the international community to stop holding
responsible for the miseries of the Palestinians living in the Gaza
as if Hamas is saying, “Please Israel, stay here in one form or another
we need to hold you responsible; otherwise, the people will start asking