JERUSALEM (Aug. 21)
Ariel Sharon is already looking ahead to the day after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Political sources said Sunday that the prime minister plans to attend a United Nations summit next month and, in a rare address to the General Assembly, request global recognition for Israel’s sacrifice of 25 settlements in the quest for peace.
“The prime minister will tell the world that now it is the Palestinians’ turn to act, by reining in terror as required by the ‘road map,’ ” a Sharon confidant said.
While Sharon could receive a warm reception at the United Nations — where Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week commended his “courageous” statesmanship — on the home front he faces ongoing criticism from the settlers he evacuated.
As of Sunday night, Gaza was 90 percent emptied of settlers, with only the hard-line enclave of Netzarim still to be tackled. Two of four West Bank settlements on the removal roster have also been cleared. The other two were expected to be evacuated by Tuesday.
Evacuations were faster than even the most optimistic estimates, mainly thanks to the relative lack of violent resistance. Around half of the settlers left voluntarily before the deadline to do so. Despite the worldwide attention garnered by those who refused to go peacefully, most of the rest waited for police and troops to knock on their doors, then left without a fight.
But with thousands of former settlers now flooding Israel and unhappy with their new housing options, tensions are mounting.
In Nitzan, a coastal community set up for 300 evacuee families, residents complained of unavailable utilities. Other ex-settlers camped out at hotels paid for by the state and accused the government’s Disengagement Authority of neglecting them.
“There has been no proper preparation for rehousing house, nothing,” said Dror Vanunu, a former property manager in the Gush Katif bloc.
The Disengagement Authority, whose officials have often found themselves harangued when they come to offer help to Gaza evacuees, said it needs more cooperation from the settlers in order to help them.
At least one Gaza settlement decided to boycott the government en masse. Atzmona’s 80 families announced that they intend to set up a tent city in the Negev desert, embracing privation in a bid to press Sharon into founding a new town for them.
Sharon urged calm.
“We have yet to finish these difficult days, but we have a solution for every one, in accordance with his or her wishes, and I am certain that this will be so,” he told Cabinet colleagues in reference to settlers’ housing demands.