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Good news from Gaza

This week, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) reached agreement on a plan to destroy 1,600 homes belonging to Jewish settlers following their evacuation from the Gaza Strip this summer. As diplomatic milestones go, this one may seem modest. But given the ongoing terrorism, and the atmosphere of mistrust it has engendered, it counts as good news that the two sides have been able to agree on anything at all.

Going forward, there are many other obstacles that must be confronted. Most notably, how will Israel prevent a quasi-sovereign Gaza strip from becoming a haven for terrorists, as southern Lebanon became a haven for Hezbollah? Even now, with Israel maintaining complete control over who comes in and out of Gaza, terrorists attack nearby Israeli communities with crude, home-made rockets. If Israel relinquished control of Gaza's beaches, port facilities and airspace, Hamas would likely import all manner of missiles, anti-tank weapons and sophisticated explosives. Eventually, the threat would grow to the point that Israel would have no choice but to reoccupy Gaza.
In the short-term, Israel will therefore have no option but to retain control of all air, land and sea traffic into Gaza. Only once the PA has demonstrated that it can control the territory, and that it is committed to eradicating terrorism, should Israel hand over border operations to Palestinian officials.
But will that ever happen? Until now, efforts at peacemaking have largely been a one-way street, with Israel proposing to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank while the PA dithers over how hard a line to take against Hamas and its ilk. Just as worrying is the continuing drumbeat of hate propaganda against Jews in mosques and in the official Palestinian media. According to the Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, there has been a decrease in hateful messages of late. But they have not been eliminated. This week, for instance, PA TV broadcast a dramatic presentation that encourages children to aspire to "martyrdom." In one segment, a child en route to such a fate tells his teary mother: "Don't cry, my mother! Let me go and fight for the sake of the homeland. The enemy stole our beautiful land … We all must fight in order to redeem the lost paradise … We lived in joy and happiness, until the foreign enemy came and expelled us from our land, and we became refugees in tents. But we will return, by Allah's will!"
The effect of this propaganda is borne out in such piteous scenes as the one that unfolded this week at a Gaza border crossing, where a distraught Palestinian woman was caught with a suicide vest containing 10 kilograms of explosives. The would-be terrorist, who had previously been burned in a domestic accident, was traveling to scheduled medical treatment at an Israeli hospital – and some believe her aim was to blow up fellow patients, a particularly hideous mission.
Brainwashed by Palestinian propaganda, and exploited by terrorists – who have apparently become so desperate for recruits that they are now preying on female burn victims – she declared that "my dream was to become a martyr."
This week's agreement on Gaza is good news for the short-run. But while hateful attitudes are prevalent among Palestinians, there is little chance of creating a truly enduring peace.