I expresed disgust with their torching a few days ago. Turns out Israel had been planning to destroy the synagogues before withdrawing because it expected exactly this type of thing to happen. But some either cynical or narrow-minded rabbis convinced the government to hold off. That's too bad.
Meanwhile, whatever the moral issues around the torching, it's also emblematic of a more concrete issue: lawlessness in Gaza. The strip is effectively a failed state, where the Palestinian Authority has little authority and is essentially second fiddle to Hamas.
Consider the case not just of the synagogues, which the PA promised to protect, but the greenhouses which were slated to be an economic backbone to the strip:
NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip — Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps, and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.
American Jewish donors had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash.
Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements. Commanders complained that they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets.
In some instances, there was no security. In others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.
The issue is how the Palestinian government can turn into a legitimate force, in all senses of the word. So far as I know, the U.S.'s contribution to that effort has consisted mainly of the CIA training Palestinian security forces, an effort that has historically been, ehem, something of a mixed bag.