PEAT SADEH, Gaza Strip – Residents of a small Jewish settlement said Sunday they’ve struck a deal to move to a village inside Israel, giving a boost to the government’s contentious Gaza pullout plan by becoming the first community to agree to be evacuated.
Peat Sadeh, a tiny, upscale farming village tucked into the southwest corner of Gaza about a mile from the Mediterranean Sea, raised the ire of hard-line settler leaders, who are mounting a campaign against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to remove all 21 settlements from Gaza and four from a part of the West Bank next year.
Sharon’s hard-line coalition government fell apart over his sudden policy shift a year ago, forcing him to try to reconstitute his team with the moderate Labor Party, his traditional rival.
In early 2004, Sharon abruptly abandoned decades of work for settlement construction and expansion, calling Gaza’ settlements “untenable” because only 8,200 Israelis live there among more than 1 million Palestinians in the impoverished, crowded seaside territory.
Israelis, in contrast, have lived well in Gaza, but their settlements have always been a sore point with the Palestinians. In recent years, mortars and rockets fired by militants in Gaza have rained down on them, and infiltration attempts have multiplied.
At Peat Sadeh, affluence is evident in the neat houses and expensive cars parked outside. Residents are farmers and say they do considerable business with Palestinian neighbors.