"Iran trying to surround Israel through Hizbullah, Hamas."
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu justified on Monday the cabinet’s decision to lift the civilian blockade of the Gaza Strip, arguing that the move would help confront Hamas – and Iran – more effectively.“The cabinet decision removes the civilian blockade on Gaza while tightening the security blockade,” Netanyahu told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, explaining Monday’s final approval of a relaxation of the blockade. “The decision was made in accordance with the United States, with Quartet representative Tony Blair and with other heads of state with whom I have spoken in recent days. This is the best decision for Israel because it pulls Hamas’s main propaganda claim out from under it, and allows us and our friends in the world to unite around our real security needs.”RELATED:Barak to Ban: Give our probe a chanceNo need for aid flotillas, says BlairThe prime minister accused Iran of trying to surround Israel through Hizbullah and Hamas, and asserted Israel’s right to prevent Iran from arming them.“The ayatollahs’ regime in Iran stands behind the Iranian boats. Hizbullah stands behind the Lebanese flotilla, even though they are trying to hide it. One must understand that these are attempts by Iran and Hizbullah to break the naval and security blockade of Hamas – and that is why yesterday’s cabinet decision was so important.”Netanyahu said that the blockade of civilian materials had long since stopped being effective, and that it instead served as a propaganda tool to attack Israel “for creating a humanitarian crisis.”He added that almost a year ago, in July 2009, he had suggested examining the possibility of easing up on the civilian blockade so as to strengthen the naval blockade.Greater variety of goods enters GazaAdvertisementIn practice Monday, a greater variety of goods entered Gaza, but not a larger quantity.According to the spokesman for the coordinator of government activities in the territories, the capacity of the Kerem Shalom Crossing has been expanded to allow for 130 truckloads a day to enter Gaza. That number had been about 100 truckloads a day, but on Monday only about 90 truckloads entered Gaza.Discussions are under way among the IDF, the Palestinians and the United Nations as to the best way to increase the quantity of goods into Gaza.One option is expanding the capacity of the Karni Crossing, which was designed to handle the greatest volume of goods out of all three Israeli crossings.Until Hamas took over Gaza, Karni was the main crossing for goods. At present, it is operational only at a very limited capacity for wheat and animal feed.However, opposition leader Tzipi Livni interjected at Monday’s committee meeting that it was Netanyahu – and not the blockade – that had led to the delegitimization of Israel.“Israel is perceived as weak, and [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has noticed that. To say that the delegitimization is because of our presence here is like saying that government decisions have no significance,” complained Livni. “It testifies to diplomatic blindness. It is throwing up our hands and running the country from crisis to crisis instead of changing policy.”Also on Monday, Netanyahu responded to a question from MK Danny Danon (Likud) regarding the controversial Supreme Court decision on Route 443. Netanyahu told MKs that his security personnel had forbidden him to drive on the road, a section of which was recently opened to Palestinian traffic.IDF operations chief Itzik Turgeman, who was also at the briefing, told MKs that “since opening 443 to Palestinian vehicles, there is an average of 20 vehicles per day crossing the checkpoint, but there is no decline in the number of Israeli cars traveling on the road by day or by night.”Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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