'Island of Israeli-Palestinian Sanity' To Be Dismantled As Part of Gaza Disengagement

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Dubbed earlier by one Israeli official as an "island of sanity in a sea of insanity" the Erez Industrial Park is slated for closure as part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip, sources said on Tuesday.

Thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have continued to work in some 170 Israeli and Palestinian factories in the joint industrial park, seen as a bastion of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, even during most of the last three and a half years of violence and trouble.

But that cooperation will all end as a result of the government approval on Sunday of the disengagement plan.

Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying that Israel had decided to close the Erez Industrial Zone after the cabinet approved Sharon's plan, which calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal of civilians and military from the Gaza Strip, the Reuters news agency said.

Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin said that closing down the industrial park was "indeed part of the plan."

"Israeli businesses will have to separate [from the area]," Gissin said in a telephone interview.

Israel is hoping that the international community will provide funds through the World Bank for reconstructing the Erez crossing, Gissin said.

Except for the homes of some 7,800 Israeli settlers that live in Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip, Israel will hand over all the infrastructure and facilities to an international body.

But Gissin warned that it would be up to the Palestinians to prevent terrorism from their area.

"Israel will not be there to take care of the Palestinians," he said. "[Israel] will not provide security...If [the Palestinians] don't stop terrorism no one will want to come and invest."

Recently, Israeli Defense Forces (army) spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron called the Erez Industrial Park an "island of sanity in a sea of insanity." Until the last few months, there had been relatively little trouble at the industrial park, and it remained open even when all other areas were closed.

But during the last few months 14 people were killed at the nearby Erez crossing point prompting Israeli and Palestinian industrialists at the park to say that it was ruined, Yaron said.

Some 15,000 Palestinian families got their daily living from the industrial park.

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