It seems clear to most Israelis now that it was a mistake to create settlements in Gaza in the 1970s, but whether or not it was a mistake, it was not clearly illegal. Although there are legal arguments that can be made against the Israeli claims of a right to settle in Gaza, they are not strong enough to render our claims baseless. And many scholars believe that the Israeli legal claims are much stronger than any other.
The Palestinians are actively working to convince the world - including themselves and Israelis - that Israel is giving up the Gaza settlements like a thief finally being forced to drop stolen property. This is a dangerous libel, and Israel is weakening its security and morale by letting it go unchallenged.
Israeli young people, including those who strongly support the withdrawal, should understand very clearly that we are giving up Gaza to those whose legal claims are clearly inferior. Israel is sacrificing land to which it has strong legal, moral and historical claims in order, it is hoped, to improve our ability to defend ourselves against illegal Palestinian efforts to destroy Israel, including the Palestinian terror campaign.
Israel has no reason to feel guilty about Israelis having lived in Gush Katif for over 30 years, during which they produced great benefits for their Palestinian neighbors with whom they had lived largely in peace until Yasser Arafat was brought into Gaza by Oslo, which at the time also seemed to many like a good idea.
Our government - and its citizens - both orange and blue and in between, should emphasize that Israel voluntarily (that is, without compensation) turned over to the Palestinians land to which Israel has a stronger legal and historical claim. Although making this point may strengthen the Palestinian notion that they drove Israel off their land by their "resistance," it is more critical than ever that Israelis understand and assert the legal claims that were not only the basis of our presence in Gaza, but remain a foundation stone of our legitimacy as a state.
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