Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

An Upswing On The Israeli-Palestinian Roller Coaster

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on July 2, 2010

It looks like all of my bitching and moaning has actually paid off…or at least this is what I’m inclined to tell myself.

After an enormous international uproar over Israel’s deadly raid on a pro-Palestinian humanitarian mission, and after America’s refusal to wholeheartedly support Israel at the United Nations after the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally admitted that perhaps he was wrong about Gaza all along.

The Israeli blockade on Gaza, which was supposed to put the hurt on Palestinians to the point that they would challenge and possibly overthrow the Hamas Government, is now being loosened to its weakest position since the embargo was established three and a half years ago.  Weapons, like guns, ammunition, and Qassam rockets, will still be on the list of banned items going into the strip (and they should be).  But other goods, like certain foods, spices, construction materials, books, and movies, will now be allowed to pass through the border and make their way into the hands of Gazans.  For once, the hardship that the ordinary Gazan faces may be coming to an end.

Or it could be something entirely different, like a political move by the Israeli Government to relieve some of the pressure that they have been forced to contain over the last 6 months.  Or it could be both.

I’m not going to speculate why Israel had a sudden change of heart, because to be blunt, there is probably more than one motive at work here (although I would like nothing more than to run my mouth and pretend I know the answer).

So a word of caution; before we all jump the gun and automatically assume that the Gaza blockade is going to be a success and a pretext for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, perhaps we should just sit and wait to see if the policy is going to be implemented correctly.

Middle Eastern history is rife with compromises that seemed positive and reassuring in the present, but then soured and turned into a big disappointment in the future. The fuel-swap deal last October that was supposed to dissuade the Iranians from enriching uranium to higher levels turned out to a political maneuver by Tehran to stall for more time. Likewise, Barack Obama’s election victory was supposed to usher into a brand new era of Mideast peacemaking, both in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and in terms of America’s relationship with the wider Muslim world. But eighteen months later, the United States is still trying to get out of Iraq despite the lack of an Iraqi Government, and Washington is still stagnant in Afghanistan despite the tens of thousands of additional American troops entering the country this summer.

The point is not to disparage Israel’s decision to ease up on Gaza. In fact, I’ve been passionately arguing for this kind of step for months on this forum and elsewhere.  I still firmly believe that Israel will not increase its security by endorsing a policy of collective punishment on those who live in Gaza. In fact, boycotting the Gaza Strip may have the exact opposite effect.  It should be clear over the past three years that this is precisely what has happened as a result of the blockade.  Israel’s legitimacy has been corroded in the eyes of much of the world, and the Muslim world continues to show its anger, which plays right into the hands of Israel and the west’s many enemies (Al’Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard).

With that being said, Israel’s decision should be applauded and expanded. The list of banned items has always been a bit overbearing. We should just hold our breath to see if it actually works. But if the last week’s shift in policy is any indication, my past concerns are now starting to look a lot less like delusional rants.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of Marc Lynch at FP.com**


9 Responses

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  1. Joe Buck said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:52 am

    The problem is that Israel reserves the right to forbid “dual-use material”, and they define dual-use very broadly. For example, apologists for the Israeli government have justified the ban on basic construction materials, like cement, by saying that Hamas could use it to build bunkers. But thousands of homes were destroyed in the 2008 invasion, and the people of Gaza desperately need to rebuild.

    Likewise, the Gaza economy is shut down for lack of raw materials. If you’re running a jail, the people only need food and survival necessities. For people to have a decent life, they need to be able to manufacture, trade, and export.

    So, we’ll have to see how the easing of the blockade works in practice.

    • HonestTalk said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:52 am

      Israel allows non-military type supplies into Gaza. Hamas puts a stop to attacks against the State Of Israel. The non-Hamas citizenry now begins to rebuild their business’s without Hamas taking a cut of everything. Hamas does not use these new supplies to build missles to launch against Israel. Israel no longer needs to attack targets in Gaza. Sounds like a plan.

  2. JJackson said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

    If this is the first step in a process then this is good news. If this is a short term bending to relieve pressure then this is a waste of time and of the lives of those killed trying to bring this about. I agree the inquiry will be a whitewash and in any case everything about the events of that night are already in the public domain it is just that no one can agree on how to interpret them.

    When Pres. Bush got interested the Israelis signed up to the AMA but it was already being ignored before Hamas won the election after which it the already bad situation really got horrific.

    I hope it is for real but if the Israelis thing they can get away with it then they will just close the crossings down again. If it does work it will be because the US keeps the pressure on. If it doesn’t then the US are not serious about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

    The Muslim world, and I, will be watching this administration and how they act now will determine if the real Obama is the one that gave the Cairo speech or the one who has left the Bush foreign policy largely unchanged.

  3. IPPON said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:55 am

    So what’s the going rate for killing peace activists.

    By this logic every state should at least try to starve to death few million of its citizens, because then they can kill people from other countries with impunity and ward off any investigation and condemnation by agreeing to starve few less people.

  4. Hugh said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Can we stop talking about a ‘peace process’ because it’s clear that there’s not going to be one until Israel’s established its facts on the ground. Including the peace process in the equation over the flottila deal is unrealistic and it’s tiresome seeing commentators on the region continually referring to something that’s not going to happen in any meaningful way.

  5. Freeda2 said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:57 am

    I get what your saying but as an israeli-appologist, i have to disagree. it is important to keep up a blockade of goods with military application:

    herbs and spices could be used to shoot troops.

    pasta and mushrooms: they could be used to build bunkers.

    ice cream, sugar, cream, or honey: they have a dual use in that they give extra energy to militants.

    we also have to block exports, because then they could export weapons, then import them again through tunnels. THEN RE-EXPORT THEM. Is that confusing? then you must be an anti-semite.

  6. VilksSweden said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Israel and Hamas are at war. When the U.S. was at war we
    blockaded Germany and Japan. Not even cow shit got past our blockade to help the “poor germans” and “poor japanese.” Likewise the Israelis don’t have to let anything through. Oh and by the way, the U.S. also carpet bombed and fire bombed in addition to its total blockade.

    • TruthyWood said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

      @VILKSSWEDEN , but America didn’t send settlers to land of Japan of Germany, America didn’t occupy Japan or German’s land illegaly , It were Japanese and Germans armies which were occupying the other’s land. So looks like Israel does replace Nazi Germany who used to block all foods for people in occupid lands. So Next time you compare some scenario , think before you post it, It could bite back to you.

      • iPPON said, on July 2, 2010 at 12:59 am

        Also US helped Japan and Germany to develop into much better nations. I do not remember US, unlike Israel, ethnically cleansing any Germans or Japanese.

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