Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace bloc, demanded over the weekend that the government immediately reopen the border crossings to the Gaza Strip, which it described as Gaza's vital lifeline. It also said Israel bore partial responsibility for the Hamas takeover of Gaza. "It was the state of Israel which decided to keep in its hands all the keys for entry into and exit from the Gaza Strip, and deny to Gazans the right to have a direct contact with the outside world by land, sea and air," Gush Shalom said in a press release. "As long as this is the policy implemented by the government of Israel, it is legally and morally obliged to keep open the border crossings, completely regardless of the identity of the government holding power in the Strip." Gush Shalom faulted Israel for having failed to talk to the now defunct Palestinian Authority unity government, a course which it said might have prevented the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip. "Those who refused to talk to the Palestinian National Unity Government will now have to talk to two rival Palestinian governments," it said. Three months ago, the press release said, Israel could have talked to the PA unity government "and through it to all the factions and parties active in the Palestinian public, on the basis of the peace initiative adopted by the Arab League. A visible advance towards peace and an end to the occupation could have strengthened those Palestinians who seek a political solution - and there are such in both Fatah and Hamas. "With a visible fruit for the political road, the military wings and armed militias would have been less eager for hasty acts of force. Both the suffering of the Israelis in Sderot and the death and destruction of the internal fighting in Gaza might have been avoided." Instead, it charged, Israel helped "foment civil war among the Palestinians. Ministers and senior military officers repeatedly spoke of sending arms to Muhammad Dahlan and his troops, presenting them to their people as despicable collaborators." "Directly," it concluded, "the death and destruction in Gaza over the past week are the work of Palestinian factions which acted irresponsibly and caused great damage to their own people - but the government of Israel is not without blame. Those who push their neighbors to civil war cannot avoid responsibility even when the results are not as expected."