In the wake of international furor over Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound
aid flotilla, the country has announced it will ease its blockade on
Gaza. The announcement comes after weeks of international
attention on the blockade
, which has the stated aim of disarming
Hamas and halting the groups' missile strikes, but which also includes
such provisions as banning margarine
and blocking the rebuilding
of schools and hospitals. Israel will allow more goods to be brought
into Gaza by land but will still block all naval traffic.
Is and Isn't Changing The New York Times' Isabel Kershner reports,
"The announcement said the easing would apply primarily to the
importation of goods for projects under international supervision. But
it did not offer a retreat in the restrictions on the passage of people
in and out of Gaza, on exports, or on the importation of raw materials
for the enclave’s largely paralyzed industries. The statement also said
security checks would remain in place to prevent what it called weapons
and war materiel from reaching Gaza."
- International Wrangling
for Gaza Deal The Washington Post's Janine Zacharia writes,
"The announcement came after two days of consultations by the security
cabinet and two weeks of feverish, behind-the-scenes diplomacy involving
Israeli, American and European diplomats who discussed ways to loosen
the blockade. The goal has been to find ways to allow more products into
Gaza and to establish new mechanisms for monitoring the goods' import,
perhaps by outside parties, as part of an effort to avoid further
clashes with aid flotillas at sea. Reports that Israeli foes such as
Iran and Lebanon, as well as Turkey, might send additional aid ships to
Gaza lent urgency to the Israeli discussions and created the specter of
another confrontation if the Gaza policy was not amended soon."
Selling Out Israel? The New York Post's Benny Avni asks, "Is the Obama
administration going to let the United Nations launch a biased
investigation of the Turkish flotilla incident? The US has rightly stuck
by Israel on the issue so far -- but UN diplomats say they expect that
to change." Avni says any international investigation of the flotilla
raid would be biased against Israel. "Our diplomats must explicitly tell
[UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon] that his plan is unacceptable, and
tell other UN bodies that our financial and diplomatic support would be
removed if Israel's isolation is the only cause they care about. It's
time to stop playing nice and remind Turtle Bay who's the boss."
Flotilla Raid Is Reshaping Policy Middle East blogger Gregg Carlstrom suggests
"stepping back and thinking about how the flotilla incident has
reshaped the politics of the region. My initial take -- bearing in mind
that it's too early to predict long-term consequences -- is that the
Israeli attack has mostly accelerated existing political trends, rather
than creating new ones." He walks through the many aftereffects of the
raid, concluding, "I'm sure the White House pressured Israel to ease the
Gaza blockade, and
that is an important end for the administration (though we shouldn't
overstate its importance until we see how Israel actually implements
this easing-not-lifting of the blockade). But its tepid response did
not win it any points in the Arab world."
- Israel's Tough
Goals The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg lists the
overlapping tasks for Israel's leadership that make this "among the
most challenging in Israeli history."
Stopping Israel from
committing grievous, unforced errors of the sort we saw with the Turkish
flotilla, despite the rising number of provocations emanating from the
Hamas-friendly movement that seeks to delegitimize the idea of a Jewish
state; continuing to pressure the world to confront Iran and its
existential threat to Israel, so that he doesn't have to do it by
himself; creating a better life for Palestinians on the West Bank, all
the while knowing that he will not be able to give them what they say
they want; figuring a way out of the Gaza blockade morass that does not
wind up rewarding Hamas; and all the while maintaining good relations
with an American administration that wants Israel to do things right now
that it can't do.
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