Editorial: How to end the blockade

The best way to bring peace: help end Hamas rule.

By EDITORIAL
June 4, 2010 22:14
3 minute read.
A view of the Gaza skyline

gaza strip view skyline 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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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.

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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 are made.

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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.

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