gaza strip view skyline 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Pressure is growing for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an unabashed supporter of Hamas, has made maintaining diplomatic ties with Israel contingent on an end to the siege. British Prime Minister David Cameron, couching his anti-blockade rhetoric in amiable terms, suggested “as a friend” that Israel end the Gaza siege, since it had actually strengthened Hamas.
Even the US is expected to press for an end to the blockade, according to the New York Times. Already in June 2009, President Barack Obama, during his Cairo speech, claimed that the measure devastates Palestinian families and does not serve Israeli interests.
In truth, Israel has no desire to maintain the blockade. In August
2005, in an extremely painful and controversial move, Israel withdrew
its military and uprooted 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.
Sadly, instead of using “unoccupied” Gaza as the stepping stone to a
future Palestinian state, the fears of skeptical Israeli defense
experts came true.
Buoyed by the contention that terrorist violence had forced Israel out
of Gaza, and no longer hampered by the IDF’s presence, Hamas and other
Islamic extremists bypassed Egypt's unsatisfactory guard of the
Philadelphi Route and smuggled into Gaza hundreds of Kassam rockets and
weapons. Although the Karine A
, with its cargo of
Iranian weaponry, was intercepted in January 2002, other ships carrying
arms might have gotten through.
In June 2006, in one of many attacks on IDF soldiers guarding the
border between Israel and Gaza, Hamas kidnapped Gilad Schalit. In June
2007, Hamas violently took over control of Gaza from the Fatah-led
Palestinian Authority, ruthlessly tracking down wounded PA supporters
in hospitals and eliminating them.
Inside Gaza, Hamas instituted an extremist Islamic regime that
discriminates against Christians, wages a war against secular
lifestyles and promotes misogyny, including honor killings.
Outside Gaza, Hamas bombarded Israeli towns for months with thousands
of mortars and rockets, gradually hitting more distant locations. In
December 2008 Israel was forced to launch Operation Cast Lead to track
down and destroy rockets and the makeshift plants where these rockets
If, under international pressure, Israel were now forced to lift the
blockade on Gaza, the concern is that war would follow. Hamas’s
conviction that terror works would be further vindicated. Its
terrorists would obtain more long-range missiles that could reach Tel
Aviv or even the outskirts of Jerusalem; it already has some of these,
as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cautioned this week.
ISRAEL COULD, in theory, announce that in the face of international
criticism it is transferring responsibility for Gaza to the
international community. In this scenario, Israel would seal its border
crossings with Gaza. Supplies, medicine and other necessities would be
transported via the Egyptian border. And Israel would, in theory, no
longer be blamed for a supposed “humanitarian crises.”
But one problem is that Egypt, which for decades has refused to take
sole responsibility for Gaza, would never consent to this arrangement.
Another is that Israel could never rely on international forces to
scrupulously prevent the rearmament of Hamas. UNIFIL’s failure to
prevent Hizbullah from replenishing its stock of Iranian missiles in
south Lebanon is proof that this doesn’t work.
Another, more feasible, option is for Israel to recalibrate the list of
goods that are included in the blockade, especially “dual-use” goods
such as concrete, which can rebuild Gaza or create bomb-proof bunkers.
A joint forum of Israeli and international organizations already meets
weekly to reduce bottlenecks and address special requests. Perhaps,
through cooperation with Egypt and reputable international aid
organizations, a way could be found to ensure that, if things like
concrete are allowed into Gaza, they are used for peaceful aims.
The real solution to the blockade, however, is in the hands of Gaza’s
people. Israel has made it clear that the siege would be lifted as soon
as the political leadership in Gaza agreed to recognize the existence
of the Jewish state, abandoned violence, released Schalit and adhered
to past agreements achieved between Israel and the PA. Israel’s
struggle is not with the people of Gaza but with the radical regime
there that is actively working to destroy the Jewish state.
Those truly interested in bringing peace and alleviating the plight of
Gazans would best achieve their goal not by placing pressure on Israel
to stop defending itself, but by convincing the residents of Gaza that
Hamas’s way is a dead end.