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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Israel 'banning' foreign leaders from Gaza?

JPost reports on Tuesday (as if it's big news) that Israel has a 'policy' of denying foreign officials entry into Gaza from Israel's crossing points.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government has an undeclared, but de facto policy, of not letting senior political figures, such as foreign ministers, enter the Gaza Strip from Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to government officials, the reasoning is twofold: to deny Hamas legitimacy that would come of such visits, and as a way of trying to apply pressure over kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.

The policy has come to light after Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin told a parliamentary committee last week that Israel had banned a visit he had hoped to make to Gaza.

Responding to criticism that Israel was trying to hide the situation in Gaza, Israeli government officials pointed out that statesmen can always enter Gaza through Egypt.
The Post goes on to list who has been allowed in and who has not.
Prior to Netanyahu's coming to power on March 31, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, and US Sen. John Kerry were all allowed into the area.

Since then, such high-level visits have, for all intents and purposes, stopped.

Northern Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams went to Gaza in early April, but that was less than two weeks into the Netanyahu government.

Israel has since refused requests by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and now Martin, to visit Gaza.

According to Israel's envoy to Ireland, Zion Evrony, the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv made initial inquiries regarding the Martin visit, and the proposed itinerary included a visit to Gaza and a meeting with UNRWA's director of operations there.

The Foreign Ministry, Evrony said, "replied that our general policy is not to have visits to Gaza included as part of official visits to Israel. This is out of concern for the safety of our guests visiting an area that is under the rule of a terrorist organization, as well as because of our overall policy of objecting to gestures which give the Hamas regime legitimacy. This legitimacy is created by visiting the area, even if no direct meeting with Hamas officials takes place."

Evrony said that several days ago the Foreign Ministry was informed by Dublin that Martin had decided to postpone his visit.
I'm not sure what the big deal is. Israel has had a policy for a long time that anyone who met with Hamas 'officials' would be denied access to the Israeli political echelon on the same trip. Heads of state and foreign ministers would presumably be meeting with Israeli government officials. Telling them to go to Gaza through Egypt if they insist on going ensures that no one double crosses us by meeting with Hamas.

Remember the Hamas letter to Kerry that was delivered by UNRWA? I suspect that was the impetus for this policy. And from where I sit, it's a policy that makes sense.


At 6:42 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

Israel should seal the border with gaza.

Cut off all food, water and electricity

Make a public announcement that from now on, gaza is part of Egypt.


At 6:59 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I agree. If foreign figures want to meet Hamas, there is no reason they can't travel to Gaza from Egypt. Israel is under no obligation to help them to legitimize a terrorist group sworn to Israel's destruction. Israel can't stop foreign governments from doing what they want but that doesn't mean it has to go along with them.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Josephine said...

Exactly. Let them go through Egypt. And if Egypt refuses, let's hear them make a big stink about it (as if).

At 2:31 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

For what its worth, former Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert has finally acknowledged what has been obvious now for some time:

Abbas Doesn't Want Peace Anymore Than Arafat Did

I wonder if ANY ONE in the Israeli government, Western chancelleries and the White House is listening to this admission.

Which goes to show even a washed-up corrupt politician like Olmert gets it.



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