World News and Trends: The Gaza withdrawal: Signal for lasting peace or future conflict?

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The Gaza withdrawal: Signal for lasting peace or future conflict?

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Some high-ranking authorities in Israel see the withdrawal from Gaza as a conciliatory, voluntary step towards peace with the Palestinians. But a spokesman for Hamas (a notorious terrorist group) in Beirut, Khaled Mashall, sees it very differently. He said: "The resistance and the steadfastness of our people forced the Zionists to withdraw" (The Daily Telegraph).

Almost every Palestinian in Gaza who was interviewed believes the withdrawal was forced by the suicide bombers who have killed more than 1,000 Israeli citizens and maimed another 6,000 during the intifada of the last five years.

A Palestinian poem has become a virtual battle cry for the future. It reads: "O brigades be prepared, Gaza has been restored. Start preparing to liberate the rest of the land. Drive the Zionist out, O Hamas, let's liberate Jerusalem with the help of your soldiers and glorious rockets" (emphasis added throughout).

Two prominent Israeli cabinet members have resigned over the government's Gaza policy, first Natan Sharansky in May followed by Benjamin Netanyahu in August. In an interview with Time magazine, Mr. Sharansky said that withdrawal should have been "connected to changes by the Palestinians . . . It means zero pressure to reform." He regards the apparent lull in open conflict as "more and more time for the terrorist groups to strengthen themselves."

A senior Israeli security official said, "We feel that this is the lull before the storm." Some observers clearly expect an outbreak of serious conflict sooner or later, perhaps even another prolonged intifada. (Sources: The Daily Telegraph [London], Time.)