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Monday, June 21, 2010

Who won and who lost on the Gaza 'blockade'?

Who won and who lost on the Gaza 'blockade'? That depends whom you ask and what you believe were the goals of the blockade. Let's look at the goals first, because most of the commenters seem to have forgotten them.

Most commenters act as if the goal of the blockade was to stop the rocket fire on Israel. If that were the case, the blockade could have been ended long before the Mavi Marmara approached the Gaza coast on May 31. The rocket fire has mostly (but not entirely) stopped since early 2009 for reasons that have little to do with the blockade and a lot more to do with the massive firepower Israel dumped on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Yes, the blockade might have helped ensure Hamas could not re-arm (although I suspect it's been ineffective in that respect since a lot of weapons have made it in through the tunnels). But for now at least, most of the 'Palestinians' don't want Hamas firing rockets at Israel. They've had enough.

The other goal of the blockade was to gain the release of kidnapped IDF corporal Gilad Shalit without releasing hundreds of 'Palestinian' terrorists. The changes to the blockade constitute an admission by the Israeli government that goal will never be achieved through the blockade. That leaves two possible paths to Shalit's release: military action or trading terrorists. Each path carries its own obvious risks.

Having said that, William Jacobson argues that Israel won under the new Gaza deal.
While The NY Times and others portray this as a loss for Israel, which had to bow to world pressure, in reality this outcome would represent a victory for Israel because the most important tenent of the blockade -- the inspection of all goods whether brought by land or sea to prevent military supplies -- now has international legitimacy.

To the extent there were purely consumer goods which were barred, such system was ineffective and senseless anyway, and Israel loses nothing by loosening up.

The naval blockade is not affected, which is the key because it was by sea that Iran was planning on supplying Hamas with more effective and deadly military supplies. Such supplies cannot get through on land in the quantities and size Hamas desires, although many smaller military supplies do get through smuggling tunnels.

Also unaffected are so-called "dual use" supplies, such as concrete, which Hamas desperately wants to build fortifications. Under the new plan, such items will be allowed in for international projects (which is what happens now anyway).
But the Jewish Week's Jonathan Mark says Israel surrendered because it eased up on the 'blockade' without gaining Shalit's release.
Israel did what it was told, giving in on the blockade without getting anything back, not even a Red Cross visit for Shalit, so everyone can feel better about themselves -- particularly those leftist American Jews who have had such a hard time supporting Israel lately -- except Shalit and his family won't feel better about themselves, Shalit remains tortured, getting nothing out of this.

We'll see how much pressure anyone keeps up on Hamas to release Shalit. Everyone who wanted Israel to be "smart," well, this is what they asked for. Let's see how much the pro-Beinart bloggers will ever mention Shalit again. And now let's see if it works for Shalit or if this whole episode will be exposed as yet another scamming of Israel. The Palestinians see this for what it is, a sign that they can take even more chances -- with Israel increasingly being stripped of its right to self-defense.

But really, why should anyone mention Shalit? Even Israel's President Shimon Peres says there are no Jews left in Gaza until he says there is. Ehud Barak says, there is only one person in Gaza in need of humanitarian aid. Let's see how many news stories, editorials and bloggers will mention that person's name. So far, many of the news stories aren't mentioning him at all.
And Arab MK Hanin Zuabi, who was on the flotilla, describes it as a total victory for the flotilla of fools.
Arab MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who participated in the Gaza-bound flotilla, responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration that the blockade on Gaza will be eased, saying "The flotilla succeeded in undermining the blockade's legitimacy, because when the government says it will reassess its conditions, this means it is political.”

The Knesset House committee voted to remove Zuabi’s immunity following her participation in the flotilla in which Israeli soldiers were beaten and taken hostage. But Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) has delayed voting on the issue in the Knesset. Zuabi says she will participate in the upcoming flotillas as well.
So who's right? I wish Jacobson was, but he's not. If this were the end of the game, he might be, but Mark is right that this is just the start of chipping away at Israel's right of self-defense.

But Mark is also wrong - the government's goals in imposing the blockade have long since bypassed Shalit, and Jacobson is right that the reconstructing of the blockade to a more sensible structure (what's prohibited rather than what's permitted) will make it harder to attack. Moreover, there was never really a chance that the blockade alone would bring about Shalit's release.

And unfortunately, Zuabi is right as Mark acknowledges. There is no way that this will not be seen as a success by the flotilla and there is no way that there will not be future flotillas (Jacobson seems to think the Hezbullah one has been canceled but that's not true) that will further erode Israel's position.

So Israel is definitely not a winner here. Hamas might be - it remains to be seen how much gets chipped away from what is left of the blockade.

What could go wrong?


At 4:14 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - the economic pressure was the one thing that would have secured Gilad Shalit's release and perhaps moderated Hamas' stance. Both of those goals are gone for good now. As I mentioned, Hamas got that lifted at little real cost to itself. It will now redouble its efforts to get the security blockade lifted. Whether Israel in fact has international legitimacy to maintain it will be tested in the world's reaction to what Israel does next to counter future flotillas. But the remorseless logic is clear - to narrow the space in which Israel can defend itself. Like it or not, we are now in a new era.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Eliana said...

Israel's enemies have waged wars and terror attacks and wars and many more terror attacks and PR campaigns ("The Palestinian Narrative" and the Flotilla of Fools, among many others) but they never accomplish more than inching along when it comes to their goal of bringing Israel down.

These efforts have been horrendous and depressing for Israel and the Jewish people (to one degree or another) but Israel's GDP and Jewish population are still growing substantially in spite of everything, 62 years into Israel's statehood.

The best case estimate of the early Zionists for the Jewish population in the Jewish state by the year 2000 was 500,000. Instead, there were roughly 5 million Jews in Israel in 2000.

In 2010, Israel is a state whose voters have caught on to the truth that the international game against Israel is always fixed and there's no peace deal with the Arabians that will ever change this.

Maybe I'm feeling upbeat today because I recently finished reading "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" - but I can't help but think that the most important message from Israel must go to Israeli voters so that they understand that Israel isn't freakishly wrong all the time. The world is freakishly weird all the time when it comes to Israel (especially when it comes to seeing Israel's value to the world).

The people of Israel are indeed getting this message.


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