(Photo from the Ha’aretz article linked below).
Today at 7:00 AM, the last Israeli vehicle exited Gaza and the Israeli military and civilian presence in that part of the world is over.
As they departed, the Israelis had a tough decision to make regarding Gaza’s synagogues. Although the government had intended to raze them, challenges in the Supreme Court delayed the process. The Israelis quietly approached the PA to request that they take responsibility for preserving these sacred buildings, but the PA told the Israelis to not even bother with an official request, they would not protect anything.
As we know, in 1948, the Jordanians conquered what we now call East Jerusalem and promptly destroyed all of the synagogues and their contents. They also desecrated most of the visible Jewish graves and their gravestones. Therefore, few had any illusions about what would happen to the Gaza synagogues once Israel left. But Jewish authorities in Israel demanded that Israel not be the destroyer of these buildings. They claimed it would be a precedent and harmful to the Jewish people.
Ultimately, the Cabinet and Shaul Mofaz seemed to agree. They voted to leave the synagogues standing. The synagogues are already burning.
In my opinion, Israel did the right thing. It’s true they changed an earlier Cabinet decision at the last minute, something which is making Mazuz, Israel’s AG, unhappy. However, there is no reason for Israel to destroy places of worship just because the incoming Palestinian Authority doesn’t wish to respect these sites. It is to their discredit that they are destroying these buildings because they could have been a symbol for a return to peace and future talks. Instead, they are a symbol now for hatred and destruction.
Then again, if that’s the truth of the situation, why cover it up?
I’m not particularly happy to be out of Gaza, but I believe it was the right move. There is no question, however, that the real battle begins now. Gaza only had 8000 settlers, but 250,000 settlers live in the West Bank with over 50,000 living in areas to the East of the security barrier. So, The fight over the West Bank and which parts of it Israel will keep is just beginning. There are already international groups including several large Christian organizations that are pursuing a divestment strategy against Israel. In England, a couple of days ago, a retired IDF general who had been responsible for the Gaza strip at one point did not leave his El Al plane and returned to Israel because he learned he was going to be arrested with a charge of war crimes. The Europeans are telling the Israelis that the West Bank is next. Bush has told the Israelis that the Road Map is coming and parts of the West Bank will have to be relinquished. The Palestinian terror organizations will now begin to act more aggressively out of the West Bank, while continuing to shell from Gaza (IDF should have a standing order to randomly fire 5 missiles into Gaza for every one that is fired at Sderot or any Israeli community. Okay, maybe not).
But having said all that, this is a fresh new beginning where we won’t have Jewish Israelis with guns and armor managing the lives of others. That is a good thing.