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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:43, September 15, 2005
Can Gaza become a "Sydney"?
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With the last Israeli soldier withdrawing from Gaza, this piece of land that has experienced many vicissitudes has finally returned to the embrace of Palestine. However, Middle East media have entirely different views on the prospect of Gaza after its return. Some media expressed a pessimistic view holding that Gaza's future remains gloomy; some expressed an optimistic view holding that Gaza faces a bright future; some even said that Gaza would probably become "a second Sydney".

As to how Gaza's future would be, no one could give a definite answer. Judging from the present situation, it seems one should not be too optimistic about it. It is still fresh in people's minds that when an autonomy agreement was just signed by Palestine and Israel in 1993, some people virtually predicted that Gaza would become a "second Singapore". Now a dozen years have passed, there is not the shadow of even half a "Singapore". What's more, the situation of Gaza has gone from bad to worse, its present rate of unemployment reaches as high as 60 percent, over half of the households live under the poverty line. With such a low starting point, it is hard for people to avoid having doubt about the possibility for Gaza to become a "Sydney".

Of course, if Palestine and Israel engage in full cooperation, if Palestine works with one heart and one mind internally and the international community gives it all-out assistance, it is not impossible for Gaza to bid farewell to the blank and poor state for good, embark on the broad road of social stability, economic recovery and a prosperous and contented life for the people and someday Gaza would become a city to be mentioned in the same breath with "Sydney".

However, the crux of the matter lies in the "if" mentioned above is not a reality.

Firstly, at present, Palestine and Israel are respectively calculating, their mindsets and goals are entirely different. In Israeli opinion, troop withdrawal indicates the end of occupation. Palestine said in retort, saying that the Israeli side still controls Gaza's territorial air, harbors and seaports leading to the outside -- Gaza is still under occupation, and has become a "big prison".

On September 13, Mahmoud Abbas, in his televised speech, clearly stressed that the pullout of Israeli troops does not imply a complete end to occupation. The intention of Abbas is: Taking Gaza's return as an opportunity and drawing support from international strength to force Israel to start negotiation at an early date, restart the "Roadmap" plan, realize the dream of founding the Palestinian state, improve people's livelihood, consolidate the foundation of political power, and restrain and guard against Hamas and other radical forces.

A look at Israel shows that Ariel Sharon is now faced with great domestic pressure. He puts his focus on digesting and consolidating his pullout plan, counterattacking Benjamin Netanyahu's aggressive offensive of seizing power, and even expressed his intention to expand construction of settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan River. It can be said that Sharon's intention is not at all on reopening negotiation and implementing the "Roadmap" plan. The great difference in the stands of the two sides destines that future Gaza will not see a boundless bright sunny sky. It will be politically turbulent, its economic construction can hardly be guaranteed, Gaza's intention to become a "Sydney" now turns out to be a slim hope.

Secondly, Palestine is not of one heart internally. With the pullout of the Israeli troops, the originally covered up internal contradictions of the Palestinian side was brought to light, the assassination of the head of the former Palestinian military intelligence bureau shows the seriousness of the problem. The urgent tasks at the moment for Abbas are how to smoothly take over political power, swiftly fill up the security vacuum and guard against Hamas to take advantage of the opportunity to grow in strength.

On September 12, almost in step with the planting of a flag by Abbas on the land of Palestine, senior leader Ismail of Hamas Movement held a press reception at which he unequivocally stressed that the withdrawal of Israeli troops did not imply the end of everything. Hamas would never lay down arms, still taking armed resistance as his own strategic choice. Hamas also indicated that he would enter into rivalry in Palestinian legislative council election in January next year to fight a decisive battle with Fatah. Jihad also refused to admit being inferior, indicating that he would "never lay down arms".

Recently, signs of turmoil have emerged in Gaza. Many Palestinians rushed to the original settlements of Jews to plunder things left over. Regarding this, Abbas indicated that he would immediately adopt measures to maintain order. But what measures are to be adopted? How large would be the result? These are all uncertain. If stringent measures were rashly adopted, it would inevitably trigger rebound and even cause internal bloodshed tragedy, the consequence would be unimaginable.

While restraining and limiting Hamas and other radical forces, Abbas is still faced with a hard task of developing the economy. On September 13, Abbas outlined a tentative idea about the construction of Gaza, with the content involving housing, education, public health, investment, environmental protection, etc. But it is really not easy to turn the blueprint into reality. It is thus clear that there is still a long road leading Gaza to become a "Sydney".

Nevertheless, from "Singapore" to "Sydney" is, after all, the good wish the Palestinian people are cherishing, although at the moment this is "a castle in the air", people sincerely wish the Palestinian dream, as a kind of hope and expectation, would someday be realized.

The article on the seventh page of People's Daily, September 15, is translated by eople's Daily Online

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