Jewish settlers in Gaza doubt mass defection ahead of retreat (ISRAEL INSIDER) By Israel Insider staff and partners 02/01/05)
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Thirty-eight families in two small northern Gaza settlements have
signed agreements to move to a village inside Israel, the government
said Tuesday, a boost to its contentious Gaza pullout plan -- but at
the settlements themselves, residents were wary about talking about
The families -- 19 families from Nissanit and 19 from Elei Sinai,
both close to the Israeli border -- agreed to move a few kilometers
(miles) northwards to Bat Hadar, a village next to the city of
Ashkelon, the government said in a statement.
Set among the rolling sand dunes near the Mediterranean coastline,
the settlements consist of neat single family homes, surrounded by
swaying date palms and well kept gardens. Most of the residents say
they would stay here if they could.
The 38 families represent a small part of the 8,500 settlers in the
21 Gaza settlements, all of which are to be removed in the summer.
Government officials hope it´s the start of a wave, while settler
leaders dismiss the announcement as a fabrication.
Though some settlers have organized as a group to press for proper
compensation, many feel pressure from their leaders to keep their
intentions to leave to themselves. The leadership promises stiff
opposition to the evacuation.
At a Jerusalem demonstration on Sunday, about 130,000 settlers --
most from Judea and Samaria [the "West Bank"] -- and their backers
pledged to go to Gaza and block the pullout, fearing it would lead to
evacuation of some 150 settlements from the West Bank as well.
Elei Sinai resident David Saadon said he was one of the people who
had signed the agreement to leave. The pact is a memorandum of
understanding, contingent on parliamentary approval of evacuation and
"We need to be ready for the day after, so we have been acting in a
responsible, considered way," he told Israel Radio. "If there is an
evacuation, approved by law, then those who think we are acting
prematurely will at that point have to start doing what we have been
However, in Nissanit, a community of about 300 families on Gaza´s
northern boundary, residents insisted they knew of no one who was
planning to leave.
"This is the first I´ve heard of it," said Avinoam Nissim, a 52-year-
old caterer who came to the community when it was established in
1984. "If anyone is leaving, I certainly don´t know who they are."
Unlike most of the Jewish settlements in Gaza, Nissanit and Elei
Sinai are politically moderate. Many of the residents are secular,
and local support for ideological hard-liners is weak.
Residents say that despite frequent mortar fire -- recently blunted
by the deployment of Palestinian police in northern Gaza -- they
still don´t want to abandon the settlements.
"We want to stay here," said Valeria Moasael, a 36-year old immigrant
from Argentina. "We´ll leave if we have no choice, but we intend on
staying until the very end."
Some settlers claim that reports of the 38 families wanting to leave
are part of a deliberate government disinformation campaign aimed at
sapping their will.
Elei Sinai resident Avi Farhan told Israel Radio he was skeptical of
the news. He said he recalled reading a recent newspaper article that
claimed all the settlers in Elei Sinai and Nissanit were preparing to
"Today I hear that number has fallen to 38 (families)," he
said. "This is part of the disinformation campaign, psychological
warfare, the exploitation of a few families."
Farhan, a well known hard-line political activist in the 1980s, moved
to the Gaza settlement from a village in the Sinai desert, destroyed
when Israel returned the desert to Egypt in 1982. (© 2001-2005 Koret
Communications Ltd. 02/01/05)
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