An Upswing On The Israeli-Palestinian Roller Coaster
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
**Comments courtesy of Marc Lynch at FP.com**