Editorial: How to end the blockade

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

gaza strip view skyline 311 (photo credit: AP)
gaza strip view skyline 311
(photo credit: AP)
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.
In truth, Israel has no desire to maintain the blockade. In August2005, in an extremely painful and controversial move, Israel withdrewits military and uprooted 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.Sadly, instead of using “unoccupied” Gaza as the stepping stone to afuture Palestinian state, the fears of skeptical Israeli defenseexperts came true.
Buoyed by the contention that terrorist violence had forced Israel outof Gaza, and no longer hampered by the IDF’s presence, Hamas and otherIslamic extremists bypassed Egypt's unsatisfactory guard of thePhiladelphi Route and smuggled into Gaza hundreds of Kassam rockets andweapons. Although the Karine A, with its cargo ofIranian weaponry, was intercepted in January 2002, other ships carryingarms might have gotten through.
In June 2006, in one of many attacks on IDF soldiers guarding theborder between Israel and Gaza, Hamas kidnapped Gilad Schalit. In June2007, Hamas violently took over control of Gaza from the Fatah-ledPalestinian Authority, ruthlessly tracking down wounded PA supportersin hospitals and eliminating them.
Inside Gaza, Hamas instituted an extremist Islamic regime thatdiscriminates against Christians, wages a war against secularlifestyles and promotes misogyny, including honor killings.
Outside Gaza, Hamas bombarded Israeli towns for months with thousandsof mortars and rockets, gradually hitting more distant locations. InDecember 2008 Israel was forced to launch Operation Cast Lead to trackdown and destroy rockets and the makeshift plants where these rocketsare made.
If, under international pressure, Israel were now forced to lift theblockade on Gaza, the concern is that war would follow. Hamas’sconviction that terror works would be further vindicated. Itsterrorists would obtain more long-range missiles that could reach TelAviv 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 internationalcriticism it is transferring responsibility for Gaza to theinternational community. In this scenario, Israel would seal its bordercrossings with Gaza. Supplies, medicine and other necessities would betransported via the Egyptian border. And Israel would, in theory, nolonger be blamed for a supposed “humanitarian crises.”
But one problem is that Egypt, which for decades has refused to takesole responsibility for Gaza, would never consent to this arrangement.Another is that Israel could never rely on international forces toscrupulously prevent the rearmament of Hamas. UNIFIL’s failure toprevent Hizbullah from replenishing its stock of Iranian missiles insouth Lebanon is proof that this doesn’t work.
Another, more feasible, option is for Israel to recalibrate the list ofgoods that are included in the blockade, especially “dual-use” goodssuch as concrete, which can rebuild Gaza or create bomb-proof bunkers.A joint forum of Israeli and international organizations already meetsweekly to reduce bottlenecks and address special requests. Perhaps,through cooperation with Egypt and reputable international aidorganizations, a way could be found to ensure that, if things likeconcrete are allowed into Gaza, they are used for peaceful aims.
The real solution to the blockade, however, is in the hands of Gaza’speople. Israel has made it clear that the siege would be lifted as soonas the political leadership in Gaza agreed to recognize the existenceof the Jewish state, abandoned violence, released Schalit and adheredto past agreements achieved between Israel and the PA. Israel’sstruggle is not with the people of Gaza but with the radical regimethere that is actively working to destroy the Jewish state.
Those truly interested in bringing peace and alleviating the plight ofGazans would best achieve their goal not by placing pressure on Israelto stop defending itself, but by convincing the residents of Gaza thatHamas’s way is a dead end.