In discussing Ariel Sharon's December 2003 about-face on the question of pulling all Israelis out of the Gaza Strip, I expressed skepticism that he "actually means what he says," and explained: "I don't pretend to know what is on the prime minister's mind — he does not confide in me — but I do suspect that … Mr. Sharon, a shrewd politician who knows when he must bend, has outlined a plan that I believe he has little wish to fulfill."
Today's Washington Post provides evidence to confirm that skepticism. Titled "Clashes in Gaza Feed Doubt About Pullout," an article by John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore tells how Israeli forces demolished three houses belonging to a Palestinian terrorist in Gaza. To which a Palestinian commented about Sharon's plan to withdraw Israelis from Gaza: "It's all lies, all words. He will never withdraw." More interestingly, an Israeli living in Gaza concurred as she noted the extensive IDF efforts in her area: "Why would the Israeli government put so much money into a project if they are going to leave Gaza?" The Post authors go on:
Three months after Sharon announced his intentions to withdraw settlers and soldiers from Gaza, Palestinians and Israelis alike are debating how far he will pursue that goal. Against a backdrop of increasing violence here and rising opposition within Sharon's cabinet, and with a presidential election looming in the United States, many question when—or whether—Israel could leave this impoverished strip of land.
Then there is the fact that
In the 13 weeks since broaching the idea of withdrawal, Sharon has faced 23 no-confidence votes in Israel's parliament. Cabinet ministers from two elements of Sharon's governing coalition, the pro-settlement National Religious Party and the ultra-nationalist National Union, have threatened to resign and bring down the government if Sharon tries to quit Gaza. The prime minister's public approval rating has plummeted to 33 percent, according to a survey last week.
In other words, not only does Sharon seem to have little wish to fulfill his plan but neither do other Israelis want him to. (March 20, 2004)