John Murphy on Israel's withdrawal from Gaza

Second of two parts

Robin Wood, Baltimore: Why do the 400 Israeli families in Kfar Darom believe their claims on land and desires for a particular way of life have more legitimacy than the needs and desires of the 1,000,000 Palestinian families living adjacent to them?

Also, isn't the Israeli government's notion that by giving way in the Gaza Strip they will be in a better position to dampen the seemingly endless conflict in the area and secure the safety and way of life of the majority of Israeli citizens?

Are the settlers prepared to go it alone in Gaza without the protection of the Israeli government and military?

Murphy: The residents of Kfar Darom as well as many of the devout Jewish settlers in other parts of the Gaza Strip believe that they are fulfilling God's promise to the Jewish people to settle the land of "Greater Israel," an area that includes both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Some of the settlers say they would be willing to share the land with the Palestinians while others would prefer for the Palestinians to move elsewhere.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip was promoted to the public as a way to minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians and perhaps restart the long-stalled peace process. Critics of the plans, however, say Sharon is giving away Gaza to tighten Israel's grip on the West Bank settlements.

Some Gaza settlers who rejected Sharon's plan said they were willing to try to survive in Gaza without the protection of the Israeli military, but the government would not allow them to stay.

Ted Mathias, Edgewater: Why not just pull the troops out and turn over the settlements to the Palestinians?

Murphy: That's exactly Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan in the Gaza Strip. The settlers are gone and during the next several weeks the Israeli Army will be demolishing homes and dismantling military bases before the settlement land is handed to the Palestinians, probably sometime in late September or October. Some Israelis in the left wing would like to see the Israeli government conduct the same exercise in the West Bank, although there is no plan for that now.

Melinda Hamilton, Annapolis: I am weak in the geography of this region; could we see a map, online, of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? It seems as if the Palestine lands are far apart and isolated from each other.

Murphy: Yes, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are separated from one another causing many problems for Palestinians. Try this link and you'll find a useful map:

Julia Persky, Bel Air: Why, after almost 40 years, does The Sun still refer to the Jewish community settlement in Gaza as an "occupation"? Is not that a perjorative pro-Palestinian term that belongs in an opinion piece rather than in a front page "news" account?

Murphy: The term "occupation" is used because it is the most accurate term to describe what's happening in the Gaza Strip. Time has not changed the fact that Israel continues to occupy Gaza, controlling all entry and exit of people and goods as well as placing restrictions on Palestinians moving within the Gaza Strip.