Lorna Fitzsimons talks to senior sources and concludes that, with heavy hearts, the Israelis are set to mount a military takeover of Gaza — a step that will leave the talks nowhere
This is not the way things were meant to happen. When Ariel Sharon ordered the removal of all Israelis from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaders from around the world applauded. It was a clear message that Israel was willing to do almost everything it could to resolve the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians — including returning land without any assurances of peace and security. However, the initial optimism was quickly curbed by the grim reality on the ground: Hamas’s election victory in January 2006 and the sharp rise of rockets fired at communities inside Israel showed that unilateral withdrawal would not provide a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.
Today the number of rocket attacks on Israel is soaring. Senior Israeli diplomatic and military sources have indicated that there will soon be a large military ground invasion, reluctantly mounted by the Israelis, and a possible reoccupation of some of Gaza. If there is an invasion, Israel will have tacitly admitted that the experiment of unilateral disengagement has failed, leaving it at square one in its quest for peace with the Palestinians in Gaza.
It is hard to imagine how any sovereign state could tolerate the situation that Israel finds herself in today. Approximately 190,000 Israelis — the population of Brighton — living in southern Israel have been under attack for seven years. The 23,000 residents in the Israeli town of Sderot have been going through hell on earth: 30 per cent of them now suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, 90 per cent have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their street; and over the past 18 months more than 1,600 cases of trauma have been recorded.