Study: Israel legally occupying Gaza, even after pullout
By The Associated Press
Even after Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, it will still be considered under international law as the occupying power and be held responsible for the crowded territory, according to an internal government assessment made public Sunday.
Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, Israel is scheduled to withdraw next year from the entire Gaza Strip and four isolated settlements in the northern West Bank.
But because Israel intends to maintain control over the crossings into Gaza, its coastline and airspace, international law will still hold Israel responsible for the territories and its population, according to the study by legal experts from the Justice Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the military.
'We must be aware that the disengagement does not necessarily exempt Israel from responsibility in the evacuated territories,' said the 47-page report.
Israel could reduce its responsibility over the territory, where 8,200 Jewish settlers currently live among 1.3 million Palestinians, if someone else were to take control there, the report said.
'The more active control is given to other parties, the more difficult it will be to claim Israel is still responsible,' the study said.
The study, which has been submitted to the National Security Council, responsible for implementing the withdrawal, said that both the involvement of an international force in Gaza or the establishment of a Palestinian state would reduce the burden on Israel.
However, Cabinet Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday that Israel was unlikely to endorse either option since it was reluctant to hand security control over to another party.
Despite the legal complications, Israel hopes the international community will recognize the withdrawal from Gaza as the end of occupation of the area, said Livni, a lawyer by profession. (Ah, so wishful thinking will make it so! - EoZ)
'I really would like to have the technical, legal, international declaration that Israel is no longer responsible there,' Livni told Army Radio. 'There is a tremendous difference between if Israel stays there ... and a situation in which Israel does everything to get out of there.'