Palestinians Heartened by a Withdrawal What do Palestinians make of the Israeli withdrawal form Gaza this week? Robert Siegel talks with Ziyad Abu-Amr, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
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Palestinians Heartened by a Withdrawal

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Palestinians Heartened by a Withdrawal

Palestinians Heartened by a Withdrawal

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now some Palestinian reaction to the Israeli evacuation of the Gaza settlements. Joining us by phone from Gaza City is Ziyad Abu Amr, who is an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Mr. Abu Amr, what do Palestinians generally think of the Israeli disengagement?

Mr. ZIYAD ABU AMR (Independent, Palestinian Legislative Council): I think there is a sense of expectation and anxiety. People like the idea of the Israeli troops and the Israeli settlers leaving Gaza after 38 years of occupation, but people are kind of worried about whether this evacuation will be completed successfully and in good time.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about how Palestinians read this. A spokesman for Hamas told me a few months ago that it's a sign of success of the intifada that the Israelis are going to disengage from Gaza. Do Palestinians generally think this shows that if you attack the Israelis they'll retreat, or does it show that if you elect Mahmoud Abbas, they'll withdraw? How does it go over with the Palestinians?

Mr. ABU AMR: It's a combination of both. You know, the Palestinians are pluralistic in this regard. There are those people who believe that the primary factor which pushed Sharon to take the decision of disengagement was the Palestinian resolve, the Palestinian resistance, the Palestinian struggle. And there are those who believe that also the moderate line of Mahmoud Abbas was a factor. But both sides feel that a withdrawal from Gaza alone will not bring peace, security and stability to the area. The same should apply to the settlement and the occupation in the West Bank.

SIEGEL: But there's an immediate challenge in Gaza to establish and maintain law and order. Are Palestinian security forces up to the job right now?

Mr. ABU AMR: I think so far, so good. The Palestinians have shown a great deal of restraint. Things are taking place quietly. There's no shooting on the Israelis. There is not internal violence. And this has been a function of a national understanding. The incident which took place this afternoon in the West Bank is likely to spoil the positive atmosphere. An Israeli settler killed Palestinians. So I'm worried--and I hope this won't be the case--that this incident would perhaps provoke a certain reaction.

SIEGEL: This was the shooting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounced as a Jewish act of terror. He was quick to attack it. I assume that Palestinian security forces have been very active in making sure that there are--that no one is firing on these settlements while the Israeli troops are evacuating them.

Mr. ABU AMR: This is true. And more comforting is that the Palestinian factions, the various factions, have agreed to allow the Israelis to evacuate peacefully. And there is some sort of national understanding that the evacuation should be allowed to take place quietly, and the Palestinians should refrain from any act of violence which would disturb or upset this kind of evacuation.

SIEGEL: What will the Palestinian Authority do with the settlement lands once the settlements are gone?

Mr. ABU AMR: There have been assurances by the president, by the prime minister, by the Palestinian Authority that this land will be used for the public good, and there isn't going to be any misuse of this land. And for that purpose, a committee has been formed yesterday, and it was blessed by the president, by the various political groups to oversee the proper use of this public property.

SIEGEL: You yourself--you're an independent member of the legislature, and you have been a critic of corruption in the Palestinian Authority. You're confident that this property will be disposed of in a fair way, in a way that doesn't benefit insiders at the expense of the general public?

Mr. ABU AMR: I'm a member of this committee, and it is--the representation of various groups is at its highest level. And everybody's taking this committee seriously. I tell you, the Palestinians have grown more vigilant now. I know people remember what happened 10 years ago or since the Palestinian Authority was established and incidents of corruption. I don't think anybody can afford to be involved in corruption or misuse of property or abuse of public position and public property. The Palestinians have grown extremely vigilant, and this is going to be a great liability, especially when we are about to go into our legislative elections in January.

SIEGEL: Mr. Abu Amr, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ziyad Abu Amr, who is an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, spoke to us from Gaza.

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