The prospect of Palestinian self-rule worries Mike Shaul, one of about 4,000 Jews living in the Gaza Strip. When he left Toronto 20 years ago, Shaul moved to Gan Or, a farming co-operative in Gush Katif, a block of 16 Jewish villages on the southwestern flank of Gaza. To encourage Jewish settlement of the area, the Labour government of the mid-1970s, headed by the current prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, offered Shaul and his wife, Susan, a bungalow and two acres of greenhouses on easy terms. Over the years, they built a flourishing export business in cherry tomatoes. Their four sons, aged 3 to
16, were raised in the village. Last | week’s signing of the Palestinian au¿ tonomy agreement, under which the
Israeli army would leave most of Gaza | and the territory’s 720,000 Arabs — —T;;..--
would run their own affairs, stunned
ERIC SILVER in Gaza
the Shauls and their neighbors. Two of Gan Or’s 45 Jewish families promptly left. “I didn’t come to Gaza for political reasons,” says Shaul, 40. “I’ve no control over what’s happening.”
Although the autonomy accord calls for the Palestinians to have their own police force in Gaza, Shaul is confident that it will have no jurisdiction over Jewish settlers. ‘The reason we’re here,” he says, “is a man called Yitzhak Rabin. In every speech he makes, he promises there’ll be maximum security here.” Unlike most Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, Shaul does not carry a gun. “I’m a Canadian,” he explained. “It’s not in me.”
Many Palestinians expect to have their own state in Gaza and the West Bank after five years of limited self-rule. Would the Shauls and the other settlers be prepared to live under Palestinian sovereignty? “There’s not one person here who would stay,” says Shaul. “And to stay alone would be suicide.” Added his wife, Susan: “I can’t conceive of staying with all the hatred the Arabs feel for us. I don’t see how it could be conceivable, for either side.”
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