In the occupied Gaza strip, there exists a daily battle between the Israeli army and Israeli settlers in their evacuation and paving the way for the planned retreat next month. These political and military battles are very similar to the clashes that take place between Palestinian authorities and rebel groups that maintain the view that war is the only valid option, disregarding the repercussions of their actions, which could lead to the failure of freeing the Gaza strip.
What is ironic is that Ariel Sharon, who was a military figure in opposition to withdrawal, is now the one who leads the moderates of the Israeli military who want to retreat and aim at establishing a primary peace pact. The Intifada, international assurance and new American orientation has driven both parties towards establishing a Palestinian state and achieving a comprehensive peace. When it really happens, the withdrawal from Gaza will be considered a true victory for Palestinians, only this time, no single party can claim this as their own accomplishment. Gaza”s freedom is a soon to be achievement considering that nowadays we see pictures of Israeli settlers being physically forced from their homes that were built upon occupied Palestinian territories.
We remain hopeful as these actions demonstrate Israeli persistence to withdraw and confirm that their pledge is not fabricated, as Arab media has claimed during the past few months. Skeptics have the full right to delay their judgments of this major event until they witness the departure of every settler and soldier from lands that have been occupied for forty years now. Previously, it was quite impossible to believe that Israel would ever retreat from any land that it occupied, whether it is the Golan Heights or a poor and crowded area such as the Gaza strip. Israel, in fact with all its bloodshed and tension with Palestine, is left with little choice but to withdraw, be it today or tomorrow. The disputes that we witness nowadays among Knesset members and amongst the Israelis within the settlements reflect the anger of extremist Israelis who would prefer death to withdrawal.
These disputes in fact, fill us with the hope that Sharon”s government is finally serious, and this opportunity should be made the most of, so that the Israeli government does not break its word by using the excuse of Palestinian attacks. Silencing oppositionists is not the responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas alone, as he would not be able to seize every suicide operation or stop all possibilities of mutual fire. Even if his opponents sabotaged the retreat plan and gave Israelis a justification to break their oath, we would surely witness a war between them in a political conflict of leadership. There always the remains the fearful option of a future of conflict between the different sects of the Palestinian community and a prolonged stay of the occupier.
However, despite the minor fractures and violations, Hamas, Jihad and different branches of Fatah, deserve appreciation. If this position proves anything, it is that Palestinians are able to unite in perilous times and overcome their suspicions of the peace project and its details, such as withdrawal, truce and their rights. They chose to give Abu Mazen the chance that he requested, realizing that they have the choice to seek to prove that Israelis are deceptive and will eventually drop the peace project. We also have sufficient time for Palestinian negotiators to prove that peace is a valid option in the current circumstances and that the Palestinian people are finally on the verge of having their state established on free territories.
Only time will tell whose vision will be realized.