I am glad that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is finally here. I don't believe, as some of my Palestinian friends do, that this is likely to be followed by withdrawals from the West Bank and Jerusalem, nor do I think that this necessarily will help promote peace, but I do think this is a wise strategic move on Israel's part.
Gaza has never been particularly useful for Israel- in fact, the awful humanitarian and military situation there have always been a blight on Israel. The tremendous financial and military efforts Israel expended to protect the settlements in Gaza and control the area never seemed worth it to me. Even though I don't agree with settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, I understand better their importance.
However, I am amazed that Sharon is the one who started this. I have always considered him to be firmly on the side of settlements. It heartens me to think that he may not be as hardline as I have always thought he was.
I still believe that for Israel to be a democratic, secure, and Jewish state that it has to pull out of Gaza and the West Bank and come to an equitable compromise concerning Jerusalem. Israel cannot be considered democratic when many people living in its borders have few rights. However, if they give the Palestinians citizenship, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state. Israel could be more secure, democratic, and retain its Jewishness by withdrawing from these areas.
Is an ideological view concerning Israel's borders really worth jeopardizing the greater goal of democracy, security, and Jewishness? Obviously some think so. But I hope cooler minds win the day.