West Bank Withdrawal May Be Less Smooth

Robert Siegel talks with Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz about the continuing settlement withdrawal by Israel. Most settlements in the Gaza Strip were cleared out this week, but next week four West Bank settlements are to be evacuated. Horovitz says the West Bank evacuations could be more complicated than Gaza, because Israel is still retaining much of its territory in the West Bank.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

On Monday, we asked David Horovitz, editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post newspaper how Israelis were viewing the disengagement from Gaza, and he told us that the real crunch period would come midweek, when the disengagement, the evacuations would become involuntary. Well, we're calling up David Horovitz once again.

How did Israelis regard what happened? How well did it go?

Mr. DAVID HOROVITZ (Editor in Chief, Jerusalem Post): Well, it was bitter in some cases, but I think relatively not awful. I think there were some fairly apocalyptic potential scenarios. There were fears of bloodshed and Jew fighting Jew quite violently. And it didn't happen. There were three focal points where things were particularly tense. There was the rooftop of one synagogue where there was a real confrontation, and several dozen people were hospitalized afterwards. But we're very, very just in the first few days since the evacuation became, as you said, involuntary, and it's nearly over. An operation that had been maybe scheduled for two, three weeks looks like it will be done all together by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

SIEGEL: The protesters probably knew they couldn't really stop this from happening, but they certainly were trying to make it as traumatic an event as they possibly could for Israel so that it would be difficult to repeat elsewhere. Did they succeed? Is this something that Israelis have been tearing their hair out over as they watch it on television?

Mr. HOROVITZ: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that all of them knew they couldn't succeed. I think there were some. I would hesitate to try and gauge a proportion or a number, but there were certainly some people who believed they could frustrate this, but most of them may have realized that they could not. And indeed, one of the aims was to make it clear that an evacuation from Judea and Samaria, from a much more central, biblical Jewish location, if a future Israeli government were to attempt it, would be much more dramatic and painful and possibly not even feasible. I don't think they've succeeded in that aim. I think it was less dramatic than it could have been, and therefore, I think the long-term implication may not be as profound.

SIEGEL: Assuming that the rest of Gaza is evacuated peaceably, what happens next? When do the small settlements in the West Bank, in the north of the West Bank, for example, get evacuated?

Mr. HOROVITZ: Well, we're being told that the evacuation there is scheduled for next week. Two of them, I think I'm right in saying, are essentially evacuated by their residents already, although there may be other people who have snuck in there. But the evacuation of the four settlements in northern Samaria in the West Bank is a more complicated and gray kind of event because there's a contrast here. Israel is leaving Gaza, is relinquishing the entire Gaza Strip, and will not be there anymore. And therefore, once the last Jewish settlers are out and the army is out, that's it. Israel's gone. There's a fence, and it's over.

In the northern West Bank, by contrast, Israel will be retaining control. And it may well be that certain settlements are--that, you know, these four settlements are evacuated, but there is probably not a great deal to stop would-be settlers, as they have done in many places in the West Bank in the last few years, setting up other outposts and so on. So it's not going to anything like as clear-cut as the absolute Israeli pullout from Gaza that we've been witnessing in the last few days.

SIEGEL: David Horovitz, editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, talking to us from Jerusalem.

Thanks a lot for talking with us once again.

Mr. HOROVITZ: Thank you.

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