Given historical reference in the region and, more specifically, regarding this situation, I believe my first response to the Israeli announcement of their intention to move out of Gaza was to guffaw uproariously. More empty promises of neighborly conduct? Unexpected political maneuvering to garner more global support? There were many reasons this might have been said. I thought, and I suspect a majority of humans on the planet did as well, that this was so much Israeli posturing for any number of reasons and that, in the scheme of things, it would be for naught.
Imagine then, if you will, my delight and pleasant surprise with the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip. Despite some protests and violence — by the Israelis, mind you — the government and more notably the military have accomplished an admirable feat. The "occupation" (read as subjugation) of the Palestinian territories has been a regretful 38-year travesty. It seems to me that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken a significant step in the Middle East peace process.
Some of the West Bank settlements are next, of course. I suspect they too will go well, although I dare not assume they will be without incident, even minor ones.
What I believe people need to stop and take notice of is that the Palestinians made no aggressive movements during this activity in Gaza. I'm sure, like me, that they needed to see it to believe it. Promises have been made before, commitments have been agreed to. They have seen the plans and heard the rhetoric and bought the lies. If the Israelis promised to leave Gaza, I would refrain from marking it on my calendar as a victory for peace until it summarily happened, which it has now done. No, I believe the Palestinians were well served by their leadership who, while welcoming the move, made no attempt whatsoever to glorify it as concrete evidence of Israel's eagerness to usher in an era of peace in the region. More importantly, Hamas and other troublemakers who appear to have no real interest in peace also refrained from taking action of any kind. Doing so could have spelled doom for Sharon's plan and acted as a reinforcing influence for more violence on both sides. It would likely have also halted the pullout.
All of the reports show, however, that it was the Israelis who attacked their own military, blockaded the roads, and otherwise tried to make nuisances of themselves in order to disrupt their own relocation. I realize some of you will undoubtedly point out that they were simply defending their homes. I respond by pointing out that those homes were built on someone else's land, namely the Palestinians, and they have been occupied, in the military sense of the word, for far too long.
The Palestinians deserve hope. This exodus from significant portions of the occupied territories is a start in providing that hope, the hope that they will one day have their own land, their own sovereign nation. We will, for now, ignore the planned increase in some settlements in the West Bank so we can at least momentarily wallow in this historic occasion.
Let us hope that this is not just a token gesture, but instead let us hope that it is a solid first step in a rejuvenated peace process, that there is some optimism, albeit remote and near inconceivable, that the Middle East could eventually get this terrorism justification off the table. I say that with clear sarcasm as it would have been lunacy to say that an eventual Palestinian state would simply stop terrorism based on the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I assure you that they have plenty of other excuses, some not as clear to the eye as this one.
So we shall see. We shall see how the West Bank pullout goes. We shall see how the Palestinians respond to this event. We shall see what, if anything, this accomplishes in that region of the world.