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      PM Sharon Writes Off Gaza; Historic Background

      "It's clear that we won't be able to remain in Gaza forever" - says Ariel Sharon, summarily writing off the efforts of several Israeli governments, the deaths of thousands of Israelis, and the lives of thousands who have made their homes there over the decades.
      First Publish: 12/16/2003, 9:35 AM

      "It's clear that we won't be able to remain in Gaza forever." So said Ariel Sharon in closed sessions over the past few days, summarily writing off the efforts of several Israeli governments, the deaths of hundreds of soldiers and civilians since the Six-Day War in 1967, the resources of tens of thousands of people who have worked to ensure an Israeli presence there, and the lives of thousands of people who have made their homes in the area over the decades.

      In the meanwhile, the Likud continues its leftward gyrations, at least as expressed by some leading party officials. Following the recent call by Trade Minister Ehud Olmert for a unilateral withdrawal from most of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), now it is Education Minister Limor Livnat's turn. Generally known as one of the Likud's more right-wing moderates, she said last night that she would support unilateral moves such as "relocating" individual Jewish communities if it turns out within a matter of months that the diplomatic process is in fact stuck. She added, however, that her consent in this matter would be contingent upon the completion of the counter-terrorism partition fence, as well as the annexation of other Yesha areas - something that Israel has never done.

      Only Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, among the territories captured in 1967, have ever been annexed by Israel.

      It should be noted that the Arab claim with pathos that all they want is 22% of their "natural homeland," referring to the proportion of Yesha within Israel. However, it is in fact Israel that is receiving only 22%, or less, of its legacy. The original British mandate included all of what is now Israel and Jordan, and a British proposal in 1946 assigned the Jewish People only 22% of this area - the area that is today Israel, including Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Arabs refused to accept this, however, and the Partition Plan ultimately approved by the UN in 1947 - also in the face of Arab objections - gave Israel barely 10% (!) of the original British mandate. Despite the minuscule size and indefensible borders, Israel accepted the plan, but the Arabs declared war on the new State of Israel in 1948 - leading to new Israeli borders running roughly along the 1946 proposal's lines, minus Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
      See the fourth and fifth maps on this Jewish Agency list.

      Deputy Education Minister Tzvi Hendel (National Union), who strongly attacked Olmert last week as having "always been a leftist," was much more restrained in his reaction to Livnat. "Her announcement surprised me greatly," he said. "I admire her as Education Minister, but I am very sorry about her new position. I very much hope that she will open her eyes."

      Prime Minister Sharon has met with several ministers and coalition MKs over the past few days to discuss his plans. Sharon will give voice to his intentions in a much-touted speech this Thursday night at the Herzliya Conference. In his talk with Justice Minister Tommy Lapid of Shinui, Sharon said that he plans to give the PA six months, after which time, if nothing changes, he will begin withdrawing from all of Gaza - a move which will involve the uprooting and dismantling of 18 Jewish communities, some of which are more than 30 years old, and in which live close to 8,000 people.

      "This is not the first time that there is talk like this," a spokesman for the Gaza Coast Regional Council said. "But our spirit is strong, and absorption continues at a fast pace - held back only by the sore lack of houses in many of the most desirable places such as Kfar Darom and N'vei Dekalim. But in the past three years, we have grown by almost 15%, despite all; Netzarim and Kfar Darom have doubled themselves during this period."