Netzarim, the last Israeli settlement in Gaza, has been evacuated. Next month, the Israeli army will turn the territory over to the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had told the eight-thousand-five-hundred Jewish settlers in Gaza that he shared their pain but also understood the plight of Palestinians there. Mr. Sharon said, "We cannot hold onto Gaza forever – more than a million Palestinians live there. . . .crowded in refugee camps, poverty, and hotbeds of hatred with no hope on the horizon."
After the evacuation was completed, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told Prime Minister Sharon in a phone conversation, "We are partners in peace." "After decades of shattered promises and stolen lives," says President George W. Bush, "peace is within reach":
"The Palestinian people have expressed their desire for sovereignty and peace in free and fair elections. President Abbas has rejected violence and taken steps toward democratic reform."
"Both Israelis and Palestinians have elected governments committed to peace and progress," says Mr. Bush, "and the way forward is clear":
"We're helping the Palestinians to prepare for self-government and to defeat terrorists who attack Israel and terrorists who oppose the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state. We're providing fifty million dollars in direct assistance to the Palestinians for new housing and infrastructure projects in Gaza. We remain fully committed to defending the security and well-being of our friend and ally, Israel, and we demand an end to terrorism in every form, because we know that progress toward peace depends on an end to terror."
"The Israeli disengagement," says President Bush, "is an historic step that reflects the bold leadership of Prime Minister Sharon."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.