gaza protest 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Countermanding a decision to scale back the supply of electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip is a serious mistake on Israel's part, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Tuesday.
"It is a grave mistake for Israel to uphold the absurd situation whereas it continues to supply water, electricity and fuel to an entity that has a terrorist organization at its helm," Ramon told the Sderot Conference. "In my eyes this is legitimate beyond the shadow of a doubt," he said regarding sanctions against Gaza.
"If it becomes evident that Israel does not have a partner that can bring results, there will be no choice but to take unilateral steps in Judea and Samaria as well," he said.
The vice premier went on to cite as precedents sanctions imposed by the US on countries such as Cuba and Myanmar that also inflicted harm on the civilian population.
In response, Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin claimed that cutting off electricity and fuel was not the best way to halt rocket attacks from the Strip.
"Former prime minister Ariel Sharon's biggest mistake was to allow Hamas participation in the Palestinian elections. We must arrive - via indirect means - at a cease-fire agreement with Hamas," he said. "They approached us, but we weren't interested."
"Cutting off electricity and water is an inhuman and un-Jewish act," he added.
Also at the Sderot Conference, at a debate entitled "The Right to Security and the Price of Blood in Israel," MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) bemoaned the government's prioritizing when allocating defense funds. "Defense is not only army and armament, but rather equality for all of the country's citizens," she said. "It is untenable that, due to the government's shortcomings, Sderot constitutes [a] human shield."
Meanwhile, Palestinian drivers operating on dwindling supplies of fuel switched off their engines in the middle of a busy Gaza City road on Tuesday, blocking traffic to protest Israeli fuel cutbacks to the strip.
Dozens of cars and trucks were plastered with banners in Arabic and English that said, "No to fuel restrictions." Drivers beeped their horns as the protest made its way slowly through crowded streets.
A spokesman for one of Gaza's fuel companies cautioned that gas stations would soon start shutting down if the cutbacks weren't lifted.
"We are running out of fuel - our storage will end within five days and we will shut down all the stations," said Mahmoud Khozudar, a spokesman for the Gaza fuel companies. "You will have no bakery, no water, no sewage treatment and no transportation."
Supplies of diesel and benzene are already down by 40 to 50 percent while supplies to Gaza's power plant are down by 12%, said Mojahed Salam, head of the Palestinian Authority's gas agency.
Israeli authorities weren't immediately available for comment, but in the past, they have said the cuts were not as deep as the Palestinians have maintained.