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Ira Sharkansky


Messy Gaza disengagement adds
new uncertainty to Israeli politics,  September 13, 2005

By Ira Sharkansky

We could have told you so.
The day of Israel's disengagement from Gaza was less than elegant.
The night before, we saw pictures of a soldier fastening a sign on the walls of an abandoned synagogue which read, "Holy Place." Last night we saw a Palestinian ripping down that sign, while others were attacking a pillar with a sledge hammer and the surroudings were on fire. Other pictures showed several thousand Palestinians rushing across the border to Egypt, supposedly closed and monitored by Egyptian police. One Palestinian was killed, according to initial reports by an Egyptian sentry. It did not take long for an official to announce from Cairo that it was not an Egyptian who did the killing. He knew that it was a stray bullet from a Palestinian shooting in celebration.
Reuters praised the Palestinians for their restraint. "Palestinian officials and analysts were generally optimistic that relative calm would prevail, citing scenes from evacuated Jewish settlements that, while chaotic, did not include factional violence."
Israel's president has called the Palestinians vandals. Other officials used the term barbaric. Religious Jews promise to return to their settlements in Gaza and rebuild the synagogues. Palestinian and Israeli critics accuse the Israeli government of leaving abandoned synagogues for the Palestinians to destroy, so Israel could exploit the pictures to justify their own illegal activities. A spokeman for an Israeli civil rights organization promised to begin proceedings in European courts against Israeli soldiers for war crimes. His hope is that officers and soldiers involved in the death of civilians will fear to leave Israel. When asked if his organization would begin procedures against Palestinians who killed Israeli civilians, he said that was not his priority.
Israeli government officials have said that continued firing of missiles from Gaza will bring a new response. There will be zero tolerance. Israel will not pursue individual Palestinians, but hold the Palestinian Authority responsible. They should know that we have mortars, too.
Does this mean that Israel will bombard Palestinian settlements if the missiles continue? At least one missile landed in an empty field yesterday. Will Palestinian celebrants be given a day or two or three to let off steam? Will the strong verbiage be our principal line of defense, backed up by a program to reinforce roofs of building close to Gaza with concrete and a warning system that will give those out of doors a few seconds to find shelter when a missle approaches?
A national election is not likely to help us in this period of uncertainty. None of the major or middle sized parties are in shape to fight the election that almost all of them say is essential. We could end up with seven parties that have in the past been in a governing coalition, each winning between 3 and 20 members in a 120 seat Knesset. Putting together a new coalition could take until the next election.
If anyone out there has seen the Messiah wandering around in search of a mission, check credentials, and send him or her in our direction. If the Messiah claims to have a more pressing assignment in New Orleans, let it be, but make sure that we are on the list for early attention.

Sharkansky is a member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem