Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left for the US late Monday night for a
meeting the next day with President Barack Obama, perhaps not carrying any
dramatic new diplomatic initiative, but at least bringing a message of
significant changes in what goods Israel will allow into the Gaza
Hours before Netanyahu was to board his plane for Washington,
Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal and Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot unveiled the principles
behind a detailed list of items Israel will not allow into the Gaza Strip.
Everything not on that list will be let in.
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The so-called negative list,
defining what is prohibited rather than what is permitted in order to widen the
scope of the goods allowed in, is something the US and the international
community have been pressing Israel to produce for some time.
the May 31 IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine men, Obama
called the blockade “unsustainable.”
On June 20, the security cabinet
decided to significantly ease the blockade of civilian goods and decided that
Israel would continue to control the entry of arms, munitions and dual-use
goods. Everything else would be allowed in.
Gal said the new guidelines
on Gaza would certainly come up in Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama on Tuesday, as
would a number of other issues, including Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and
how to move the talks with the Palestinians from indirect to direct
The US welcomed Israel’s announcement Monday as an “important
"We believe the list of restricted goods for Gaza announced today
will make a significant improvement in the lives of people in Gaza, while
keeping weapons out of the hands of Hamas,” said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.
“This is an important step in
implementing the new policy announced by Israel two weeks ago.” He said Obama
“looks forward to discussing” the matter during his Oval Office talks with
Netanyahu is expected to meet Obama at 11 a.m. in the White
House, just a few hours after landing in Washington. Unlike the previous two
Netanyahu-Obama meetings at the White House, this one will be followed by a
photo-opportunity and press conference. The leaders will then hold a working
This will be Netanyahu and Obama’s fifth meeting since they both
took office last year.
A few hours before leaving, Netanyahu met with
Likud cabinet ministers and said the goal of the visit was to move from indirect
to direct talks with the Palestinians. He also met with President Shimon
Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with US Vice President Joe
Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday
Perhaps in an indication that the Obama administration is keen
on adding warmth to this visit, following the chilly reception Netanyahu
received during his White House visit in March, Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has been
invited for a meeting with Michelle Obama.
On Wednesday, the prime
minister will travel to New York for a meeting with the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations and will give several media interviews.
On Thursday, he will give a speech to the Council for Foreign Relations, before
flying back home.
On one of his two days in New York he is also expected
to open the trading day at the New York Stock Exchange.
scheduled to return home on Friday. Next Tuesday, he is to fly to Egypt for a
meeting with President Hosni Mubarak to update him on his trip to Washington and
Last week, Netanyahu’s top advisers Yitzhak Molcho
and National Security Council head Uzi Arad were in Egypt arranging that visit.
The easing of the blockade on Gaza is expected to be discussed in those talks as
well.Certain items still not allowed into Gaza
Among the items whose entrance into Gaza will still be restricted
are materials and equipment liable to be used for terrorist attacks and
technology that could be used by terrorists, such as a range of chemicals used
in the production of explosives (including certain fertilizers); ball bearings;
lathes and their parts; composite materials; hunting knives and machetes;
optical equipment, such as lasers and night vision goggles; certain navigation
aides; diving equipment; parachutes, gliders and other non-motorized airborne
vehicles; flares and fireworks; avionics and flight control equipment;
missile-related computer technologies; rock drills; and equipment drawing water
from excavated sites.
In addition, dual-use goods and items listed in the
Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use
Goods and Technologies – a multilateral export control regime that involves more
than 40 countries that restricts the export of armaments and other products to
particular regions or countries – are on the list.
Gal told journalists
on Monday that another principle being implemented is to allow construction
materials into Gaza, but only for Palestinian Authority-authorized projects
under international supervision.
Israel is concerned that a free inflow
of items such as cement, lime, gravel, concrete, steel, iron, concrete blocs and
vehicles, excluding private cars, would likely to be used by Hamas for military
purposes, such as building bunkers, fortifying positions and digging
As a result, these products – and other construction materials
on the list – will be allowed in only for educational, housing and
infrastructure projects being undertaken by the UN or other recognized
international bodies. Dangot said that in the coming months materials will be
allowed in for around 45 projects.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who has been
pushing for a negative list for months, issued a statement welcoming publication
of the list.
“This list is a significant milestone,” he said. “As I have
always said, implementation will be the test.
“These changes are
significant and, once implemented, should have a dramatic influence on the daily
lives of the people of Gaza and on the private sector,” Blair said, calling for
the capacity of the Kerem Shalom crossing to increase as well.
of items that have not been available through legitimate channels for the last
three years should now enter as a matter of course. This will produce a
counterweight to the tunnel economy, which has been under Hamas control,” he
“It is also important that we ensure more people can enter and
leave Gaza freely and that the legitimate business community can benefit from
exporting its products from Gaza.”
UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry also
welcomed the measures, saying they were “important steps in the right
But Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said
that despite the changes, Israel continues to restrict the movement of
and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, not for security reasons but
part of a policy aimed at dismantling the economy in Gaza and separating
from the West Bank.
“The restrictions that Israel applies on construction
materials into Gaza prevent the private sector from rebuilding and
tremendous burdens on international humanitarian projects,” Gisha
It added, “There can be no economic recovery unless Israel ends its
ban on manufacturers in Gaza exporting finished products. There can be
healthy, intact Palestinian society and no two-state solution unless
allows Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, which it
recognized as a single territorial unit under international
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this