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Amid broad Israeli support for Gaza war, a rare dissenting voice

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When Israelis unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, pulling out soldiers and uprooting settlements, there was a sigh of relief that their four-decade-long occupation of the enclave was over.

The contention that with the withdrawal Palestinians lost their casus belli to launch cross-border attacks into Israel is one of the main reasons why the onslaught against Hamas enjoys wide support in Israel. A poll published Thursday in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper found that 78 percent of the public believe the war is a success. So strong is the approval that a recent demonstration in favor of a cease-fire by Peace Now only drew about 1,000 people.

Experts cite eight years of Israeli malaise after the 2000 Camp David peace conference collapsed into the Palestinian uprising. "Some of the people in the peace camp lost hope in the Palestinians, and some left hope in the Israelis," says Akiva Eldar, a political commentator for Haaretz. "Some don't believe a two-state solution is practical and doable."

Despite the US-brokered agreement in 2005 that aspired to keep Gaza's borders open after the Israeli withdrawal, Israel has restricted traffic of people and goods, citing security considerations. Since Hamas overran Gaza in 2007, it has been all but sealed except for basic supplies.

Anticipating the difficulties moving in and out of Gaza following the withdrawal, Gisha has spent the past three years focusing on the cases of Gazan students with foreign scholarships being denied authorization from Israel to leave, as well as Palestinian families separated by the ban on movement between the West Bank and Gaza.

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