Even with a war in Lebanon after withdrawal from the country’s border six years ago and with ground troops forced to return to Gaza following evacuation from the territory 11 months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday Israel will forge ahead with his plan to pull out of Judea and Samaria.
“We will yet evacuate communities and it is important to me to complete this chapter as soon as possible so that we will be able to continue as a strong and united nation for the challenges that await us,” Olmert told a group of Israelis evacuated last summer from the Gaza Strip.
Judea and Samaria, territories also commonly called the West Bank, are within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.
The prime minister, whose Kadima Party was formed specifically to carry out a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, told the Gaza evacuees he is “convinced that we made the right decision to carry out the disengagement plan [from Gaza], and it is better for Israel that you are not living in the Gaza Strip at this time.”
Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last August, rockets have been fired almost daily into nearby Jewish communities, Hamas has been elected to power and both Israeli and Palestinian officials have stated al-Qaida has infiltrated the territory. Egypt recently announced the terrorists who carried out April’s deadly triple-bomb blasts in the Sinai resort town of Dahab trained for the operation in the Gaza Strip with local Palestinians. They said Gaza-based terrorists helped finance the attack.
Israel last month mounted its ongoing ground invasion of Gaza after Hamas carried out a raid against a military installation in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted.
Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. It had occupied a small section of Lebanon’s border with Israel following repeated attacks by Palestinian terrorists in the area. Since the withdrawal, Hezbollah has staged numerous attacks against Israel, including rocket bombardments of civilian population centers, raids against military outposts and ambushings and kidnappings of Israeli troops. Israel says Hezbollah built an arsenal of more than 13,000 short- and medium-range rockets capable of hitting central sections of the Jewish state.
Israel is in its 14th day of a military campaign against Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon following a Hezbollah raid earlier this month in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two were abducted. The past two weeks, Hezbollah has fired more than 2,000 Katyusha rockets at northern Israel, killing 15 and placing one third of the Israeli population under the threat of rocket attack.
Olmert’s plan seeks to evacuate more than 95 percent of Judea and Samaria, which borders Israel’s main population centers.
Several recent public opinion polls showed the majority of Israelis now oppose a Judea and Samaria withdrawal. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan have expressed reservations about the plan, fearing terrorism can spill over into their respective countries. (link:
Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit, a senior member of Olmert’s Kadima Party, told reporters this month he thought it was unlikely any Judea and Samaria withdrawal could be implemented in the near future and that others in Kadima have been quietly expressing reservations about the Judea and Samaria evacuation plan.
Meanwhile, Olmert yesterday assured the Jewish Gaza evacuees Israel still cares about them.
“I know that you are angry,” he said. “I know that you think that you need to be in Gush Katif. We think differently. The government will invest so that each evacuee feels that the state cares about him and so that your children love the country like your grandfathers did. It is important to me that you know that we are acting out of the same love for Israel that you have.”
As WND reported, the vast majority of Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip evacuated by Israel are unemployed, have yet to find permanent housing and have not received full compensation promised to them by the Israeli government.
“The situation is extremely grave,” said Dror Vanunu, a former Gaza resident and the international coordinator for the Gush Katif Committee, a major charity organization representing the Gaza Jewish refugees. “It is at emergency status in many cases.”
This piece ran in World News Daily on July 26, 2006