Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Minister of Civil Affairs, Mohammad Dahlan has revealed a plan regarding the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Dahlan, who also heads the committee in charge of disengagement cooperation, also outlined post withdrawal arrangements, and the closures which will be imposed during pullout which will start on August, 15, 2005.
Dahlan said the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip settlements will last for four to five weeks, the army will leave one month after the settlers are evacuated, then the evacuation from northern West Bank settlements will be initiated.
The northern area of the Eretz Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel will be closed during pullout; only urgent cases will be allowed to cross. Workers will not be allowed out of the Gaza Strip until the withdrawal is accomplished.
Also, Dahlan said that extensive Israeli-Palestinian talks are being conducted this week between specialised teams in order to discuss issues regarding electricity, water and infrastructure in the evacuated settlements.
Dahlan is meeting with US envoy Wolfensohn and Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister Mofaz to discuss arrangements regarding the Rafah border crossing, and arrangements concerning humanitarian cases, students and residents who carry residency permits.
Although the Eretz crossing will not be closed during pullout, it might be closed while the army is evacuating from Nitzarim in order to prevent the settlers from protesting on the Israeli side of the crossing.
Al-Tuffah crossing will be closed, while al-Sultan crossing in al-Mawassi will remain opened.
The Rafah border crossing will not remain closed all of the time during pullout.
Abu Holy checkpoint will be closed during day time, and will only be opened daily for five hours during evening time, but will be completely opened on Saturdays and Sundays.
Also, Dahlan added that he agreed with Mofaz that the Palestinian employees of the Custom and Tax departments should return to the Rafah and al-Karama border crossings.
The five thousand residents, who came to the Gaza Strip through visiting permits, will be allowed to remain in the Gaza Strip, and will be granted family reunification.
The PNA intends to provide job opportunities to 20,000 residents, in the Gaza Strip, and 5,000 in the West Bank.
Palestinian workers who used to work in agriculture at the settlements will be employed in the agricultural sector, since the PNA prepared a plan to employ 8,000 workers.
‘Every resident who used to work in the settlements should head to the PNA ministry of Labour, which will hand us its lists of workers in order to employ them following the withdrawal,’ he said.
Dahlan reported that during his meeting with Mofaz, and the Quartet’s disengagement envoy, James Wolfensohn, Israel agreed to ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinian residents through the crossings between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel in order to enhance the Palestinian economy.
Dahlan added that Wolfensohn concentrated on the future of the Rafah Crossing, and the Road which links between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in addition to the issue of settlements and removing their rubble.
‘We insist that the rubble should be removed out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank’, Dahlan said, ‘If the studies conducted by the technical committees, and the World Bank committees are able to find any good usage of the rubble; we will study the possibility of reusing it.’
Dahlan also said that Wolfensohn suggested providing the PNA with machines and equipment in order to make good usage of the rubble.
‘But the materials which harm the environment, Israel will be committed to remove them out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,’ Dahlan insisted.
The rubble is expected to be 80 Tons, and will need at least three months to be removed.
‘There are 400 camions (trucks) in the Gaza Strip, we will give them the opportunity to work and remove the rubble out’, Dahlan said, ‘I hope that from this moment until the end of the evacuation, we will be able to employ 40,000 families, who were affected by the settlements.’
According to Dahlan, land in the settlements will only be used for public projects, and that the coastal road will be improved to be a highway, in addition to improving and reconstructing the Salah ed-Deen Road.
The PNA also intends to construct modern schools and hospitals, and implement a programme to support the needy families in the Palestinian areas.
Referring to the Rafah border crossing, Dahlan said that the PNA does not wish to see it controlled by Israeli soldiers, controlling the life and movement of the residents, and that the PNA suggested that the third party should observe the crossing in order to waste the Israeli fears of arms-trafficking.
‘We do not want Israelis to control who will enter the crossing and who will not’, Dahlan said.
‘We want the crossing without any Israeli presence, and we reject the Israeli proposal to move the crossing to Keer Shalom area since such a suggestion only aims to maintain the Israeli control over it.’
Regarding the road which links the Gaza Strip with the West Bank, Dahlan said that if Israel agrees to construct this road, the World Bank will adopt the idea, adding that the PNA has already prepared the studies and proposals for such a road, which will also include a railway.
‘But Israel is only talking about a railway’, Dahlan said, ‘We need more than a railway; we need to guarantee free movement of goods and residents between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.’
He added: ‘Israel cannot tell us that we are done from the area, this a full withdrawal, while it controls the daily lives of the residents, and their movements.
‘Crossings should be located on the 1967 borders, the borders in the West Bank are clear, but in the Gaza Strip Israel claims that there have been changes in 1949.’
Regarding ‘celebrations’ following the Israeli withdrawal, Dahlan said such acts should be controlled without weapons, and without endangering the lives of the residents.
‘Also, we are afraid that some explosives will remain in the settlements and their military camps,’ Dahlan said.
‘There will be a foreign team of experts who will check the settlements for explosives and other materials which harms the environment on the first three days after withdrawal.’
The settlements will be closed on the first three days, and then they will be opened to the public.
‘Palestinian factions should celebrate together, under the Palestinian flag, and not under flags of factions, including Fatah, we should all be united,’ he added.
‘The withdrawal is a victory to the Palestinians, we should work altogether, it shouldn’t be sabotaged by anyone, suggestions of forming a national committee for the post withdrawal period are welcomed, it is not an attempt to replace the PNA.’
Referring to internal conflicts and the unfortunate violence between Hamas and the PNA, Dahlan said that the factions and the PNA should arrive to joint positions.
He said: ‘Political partnership is needed, but it is a process which needs everyone to conduct his duties, and receive his rights.
‘We will not sell the properties of our people, we will run the evacuated areas, Jewish businessmen, and American or Europeans. . . are welcomed if they want to help, but the facilities will be owned by the Palestinians.’