Powered by WebAds

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Yes to coriander, no to Kassams'?

On Friday, I reported that the government had decided that it would 'ease' the 'blockade' of Gaza. On Sunday, that story was officially announced along with some specifics.

Here are some remarks made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and 'quartet' 'peace' envoy Tony Blair at a press conference on Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

... Our government's policy towards Gaza is clear. Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and war-supporting materiel that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks against Israel and its civilians. All other goods will be allowed into Gaza. Gilad Shalit is now approaching four years in captivity. The international community should join Israel in strongly condemning Hamas for holding him captive. Now is the time for all of us, Israel and the international community, to redouble our efforts to secure Gilad Shalit's immediate release.


Quartet Envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair: Three days ago, Israel announced its intention to liberalize its Gaza policy. We have now agreed principles of implementation. Let me state right at the outset that Israel has the complete right to protect its security and to keep arms out of Gaza. The new policy allows for first- a change from a list of permitted items to those not permitted. Everything else as the Prime Minister has just indicated is to be allowed into Gaza.

Second, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations' approved project – schools, health facilities, housing, sanitation and water – will be enabled with the construction materials necessary entering Gaza.

And third, the crossing's capacity will be increased to facilitate all of this and to allow the expansion of commercial activity, and in time, security permitting, additional crossings will be opened. The practical effect of this should change radically the flow of goods and material into Gaza. Plainly, there are still issues to be addressed and the test of course will not be what is said but what is done. But I welcome strongly this statement of policy and the Office of the Quartet Representative looks forward to working closely with the Government of Israel and other partners on its' implementation. This new policy allows the Government of Israel and the Prime Minister to maintain their absolute determination to protect Israel's security whilst improving significantly the lives of people in Gaza.

Once again, let me repeat my demand that Gilad Shalit, now approaching four years in captivity, should be released immediately. We will redouble our efforts to secure his freedom. Over these coming months therefore, we need to improve life in Gaza, to continue the growth in the West Bank and the Palestinian development of its’ institutions for statehood and to ensure that the indirect talks now led by Senator Mitchell turn into full and direct negotiations. Thank you.
Note how quickly Blair changed the subject from Gilad Shalit (it will be four years on Friday). Note also the bit about construction projects. How will they keep Hamas from getting its hands on materials that can be used to make rockets and build bunkers? I guarantee you no one knows. And how much more goods will make their way into Gaza as a result of the blockade being loosened? I'd love to see the IDF release statistics on that. The blockade was pretty loose anyway and there was an awful lot of stuff going in. I'd bet that there won't be a whole lot more other than the construction materials.

After a 'security cabinet meeting,' the government had some more details. Aside from the items mentioned by Blair, they included the following:
“We have said yes to coriander, but not to Kassams,” one official in the Prime Minister’s Office explained Sunday.

The official said that the land blockade, initiate by Ehud Olmert’s government in September 2007, was aimed at weakening Hamas and gaining the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. The lack of progress on either front, he said, was behind the change in policy.

Following the meeting of the security cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Israel has decided on the following steps:


• It will streamline the policy of permitting the entry and exit of people for humanitarian and medical reasons and that of employees of international aid organizations that are recognized by Israel. As conditions improve, Israel will consider additional ways to facilitate the movement of people to and from Gaza.

• Israel will continue to facilitate the expeditious inspection and delivery of goods bound for Gaza through the Port of Ashdod.

The statement made clear that Israel would continue to “prevent the flow into and out of Gaza of terrorist operatives, weapons, war material and dual-use items which enhance the military capability of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.”

Taking note that Schalit is approaching four years of captivity, the statement called on the international community to “join Israel in strongly condemning those who hold him captive and in redoubling their efforts to secure his immediate release.”
Don't hold your breath waiting for the 'international community' to do something about Gilad Shalit. He's likely stuck in Gaza until the next war, when hopefully someone other than Olmert, Livni and Barak will be in charge.

But wait: It gets worse.
Diplomatic officials said that Israel was considering allowing the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM), an EU supervisory body that monitored the Rafah closing for some 18 months from 2005 to 2007, to be present at the other land crossings.

The official also said that the US has for some time asked that other crossings, in addition to the ones at Erez, Kerem Shalom, Karni and Kissufim – be opened.
Of course, no one mentions who ended EUBAM's mission in 2007 and why. They fled when Hamas took over. And why do so many other crossings need to be open? Are we going back to the days when hundreds of 'Palestinians' crossed every day?

So why did Netanyahu agree to ease the 'blockade'?
Netanyahu said in private conversations Sunday evening that the significance of the decision was it meant there would not longer be a civilian closure on Gaza, but there would be a security blockade.

“And it will get tighter,” he said of the security blockade.

“We have taken away from Hamas the ability to blame Israel for harming the civilian population, and have received international legitimacy for continuing the security blockade of Hamas.”

One source close to Netanyahu said “the new policy will allow the free transfer of pasta into Gaza, strengthens our ability to stand before the world and get legitimacy for the security blockade. It also strengthens our moral position in our demand that the international community act with determination to free Gilad Schalit.”
That's all logical except that when it comes to Israel nothing is logical. Almost no one outside of Israel gives a damn about Gilad Shalit. He won't be released. And the 'international community' will still criticize us for not letting Hamas re-arm and not letting the terrorists move around freely. Don't kid yourselves.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is pleased. They got everything they wanted except for the opening of the additional crossings (if any of you want to do a piece on media bias, the Times article is low-hanging fruit - note what's in bold).
Bowing to worldwide pressure and condemnation, Israel on Sunday formally announced an eased blockade of Gaza that could significantly expand the flow of goods overland into the impoverished coastal Palestinian enclave, isolated by the Israelis for three years.

The announcement, made by the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, came three weeks after a deadly Israeli naval commando raid that thwarted a breach of the blockade by a flotilla of pro-Palestinian aid activists. That raid outraged much of the world and became a catalyst for a serious re-examination by Israel of its policy toward Gaza, which is governed by the militant anti-Israeli group Hamas and is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

While Mr. Netanyahu did not signal an end to the naval blockade of Gaza or specify precisely what goods would be allowed, his action earned unusual praise from the Obama administration, which has been critical of Israel over the past year and has called the Gaza situation unsustainable.
You can find a statement issued by the White House on Sunday here.

Did Israel get anything in return? Marc Lynch claims that we did, and that it was a good deal for both sides.
The contours of the response to the Gaza flotilla fiasco are now coming into sharper public view: the Israeli government will significantly ease the blockade of Gaza in exchange for American support for a whitewash of the investigation of the flotilla incident. As I've said many times on Twitter, this is a good deal. No investigation was ever going to produce anything of any particular value, but easing the blockade of Gaza could have significant positive effects for the people of Gaza, the prospects of Palestinian reconciliation, the peace process, and American credibility in the region. None of those will happen on their own, of course. And nobody is likely to be fully satisfied with the new measures. I've been quite critical of how the Obama team has handled the Israeli-Palestinian track, and particularly the Gaza situation -- and if they had moved strongly to resolve the Gaza blockade a year ago, the issue wouldn't have been there now to exploit. But now, I think they deserve some real credit for nudging Israel towards finally making a move which could over time open up some real new possibilities for progress.
That depends on what you consider progress. I would not call a Hamas - Fatah reconciliation in which Hamas continues to refuse to recognize Israel's existence or to renounce violence and terrorism "progress."

And by the way, the 'Palestinians' could have been growing their own coriander had they not destroyed the greenhouses that Israel left for them when it expelled all the Jews from Gaza. But of course, no one from the 'international community' will mention that.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The effect of the deal is to entrench Hamas in power for decades to come. By reviving Gaza's economy, it will have no incentive to ever release Gilad Shalit or to abandon its extremist and genocidal ideology. Hamas has discovered that by attacking the weak chinks in Israel's armor, it can force the Jewish State to capitulate. And the enemy has. A few more flotilla incidents and Israel's government will be forced to lift the security blockade as well and then Hamas can import into Gaza any thing it wants into Iran. Netanyahu and the government may fool themselves into thinking this isn't a victory for Hamas but oh yes it is - and the rest of the world sees it the same way.

What could go wrong indeed


Post a Comment

<< Home