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Ten Years After Israeli Disengagement from Gaza
   2015-08-15 10:43:17    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xie Cheng

A guideboard with the name 'Gush Katif' is preserved at the Gush Katif Heritage center in the temporary community of Nitzan in Israel in this photo taken on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Zhang Jin]  

Saturday marks a decade since Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Today, people in Gaza are still living under Israeli siege, and the peace which the Israelis expected 10 years ago hasn't been achieved yet. CRI's Huang Shan has more.


 

"I would like to repeat what I have said in the past: in the framework of a future agreement, Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today. The Israel Defense Forces and the settlements will be deployed along the security line, a portion of the settlements will be relocated. The Disengagement Plan will be implemented, period."

'The Disengagement Plan', initiated by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, refers to the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip, and the dismantling of all the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as four small settlements in the northern West Bank.

The unilateral withdrawal took place during the second intifada, when intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence was witnessed during the Palestinian uprising against Israel. The move replaced the option of waiting for a renewal of political negotiations with the Palestinians and withdrawing from the Gaza Strip under an agreement.

The disengagement began on August 15, 2005, and ended within one month. Nearly 10,000 people were evacuated.

And the days afterwards were difficult for these former settlers. Most of them lived in prefabricated homes called 'caravillas' for years, and around 2,000 people are still without permanent homes.

Dror Va'anunu used to live in Neve Dekelim, the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. He says the government used to claim that there would be a solution for every settler, but this was never realized.

"They kept telling that homes are available, lands are available for every farmer from Gush Katif, schools are available for the kids that would come and join the new communities, and the fact was basically almost nothing was prepared in advance. The only thing that was built at that time is that they started building these caravillas, these temporary sites."

In the largest caravilla site known as Nitzan, the Gush Katif Heritage center was established to commemorate the group's past. The name Gush Katif means 'the harvest bloc' and was the name of the bloc of 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza.

Shifra Shomron, a former settler in Gaza, now works in the heritage center.

"Gush Katif was sand dunes, golden sand dunes, the blue of the sea, a few of palm trees, camels and the waves. It's a very pastoral sense that people from Gush Katif chose similar places where they have sand dunes, they were by the beach, they went to places that reminded them of their home."

Palestinians in Gaza are happy to live without the Jewish settlers.

"Of course, it's freedom. The settlements separated the Gaza Strip into three regions. The transportation was so difficult. It was terrible. The communication between the (Palestinian) cities was so difficult. There were many restrictions."

However, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel and Egypt largely sealed their borders with Gaza. Professor Mukhaimar Abu Saada with Al-Azhar University in Gaza says the blockade has severely affected life in Gaza.

"When Israel decided to disengage from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Palestinians looked at it as an end of the Israeli occupation to Gaza. But unfortunately daily life conditions have deteriorated after Israel disengaged from Gaza, because Israel imposed a tight siege against Gaza. As the result, levels of poverty and unemployment in Gaza Strip have gotten up very high."

Since 2005, three major conflicts have broken out between Israel and Gaza, which have resulted in thousands of Palestinian casualties. In addition, Israel is consistently under threats from rocket attacks out of Gaza territory.

Professor Abu Saada says the tensions have much to do with the Israeli unilateral action.

"When Israel decided to disengage from the Gaza Strip, they took their decision unilaterally, and they refused to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority. Just after about 2 years, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a very violent way. Had Israel decided to disengage in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, we think that it could have been much harder for Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip and sweep Fatah and its security forces out of Gaza."

And failing to achieve peace has made more and more Israelis think of the disengagement plan as a mistake.

"We paid such a high price - 10,000 people lost their homes and many of our people are still homeless. We did everything to achieve peace, but we got the opposite. We got wars, and Israel is still blamed around the world."

Sixty-nine-year-old Anita Tucker moved to Gaza in 1976 and was among the first of the Jews who settled in Gaza since Israel occupied the enclave in 1967. She says they used to get along very well with the Palestinians in Gaza before the second Intifada. They used to go shopping in Palestinian stores, get drivers licenses in Palestinian cities and visit each other for celebrations. Ten years after leaving Gaza, she remains hopeful that one day her people can go back and live in harmony with the Palestinians.

"To be honest, I yearn for home a lot. Thirty years is a long time. Every time there was a little war, as the days went on, I started to pack my suitcase. I want to be the first one in line. It would be possible and they would be saying, OK, who's willing to start a new town now? Peace is about people living next door to each other. When you separate people from each other, you are never going to have peace. The way right now we are just building more and more wars and peace is getting further away."

Ten years after the disengagement and one year after the last military conflict, the relationship between Israel and Gaza hasn't improved much. Professor Abu Saada says the current situation is still unstable.

"A year after the Israeli war against Gaza, Gaza is still under siege, and around 100,000 Palestinians have been displaced. The situation is still fragile and another round of violence or confrontation between Israel and Hamas can be expected, unless there is a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, or Israel will have to put an end to its siege and blockade and allow the Palestinians in Gaza to live a normal life."

For CRI, I'm Huang Shan. 

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