Concerns Over Gaza Disengagement

(TIME) Joe Klein - Several prominent U.S. diplomats told me last week that Gaza disengagement is - for the moment, at least - causing them more concern than the pacification of Iraq. What will the Palestinians do when the Israelis depart from Gaza? "The pictures of the evacuation will be hard enough for most Israelis to swallow," says Shai Feldman, an Israeli security expert at Brandeis University. "But if we also see Palestinians looting and destroying the settlements, and dancing on the rooftops - as they did when we left southern Lebanon - then it will be near impossible to resume negotiations on a final peace settlement." Worse, if Palestinian radicals fire rockets at the Israeli settlers as they leave, it could trigger a resumption of major combat between the two sides. There are supposed to be Palestinian parliamentary elections on July 17 - and the radical Islamist group Hamas is expected to do very well against the aged, corrupt leadership of the majority Fatah Party. Several American and Palestinian sources say those elections may be delayed to give Fatah time to replace some of its old party hacks with younger reform types, and give the U.S. time to bolster Abbas with $200 million in reconstruction funds, which can be used for job-creating infrastructure projects, and walking-around money. But if the Israeli departure is seen as a retreat forced, or even just presided over, by gloating Islamic radicals, Hamas is bound to profit at the polls.

2005-04-11 00:00:00

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