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Ease the Blockade

June 3, 2010

Can’t say I’m surprised by this move at all:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.

The officials say that Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla trying to break the siege and the resulting international condemnation create a new opportunity to push for increased engagement with the Palestinian Authority and a less harsh policy toward Gaza.

Yes, the Administration wants the Israelis to change their Gaza blockade policy, whose purpose, as I noted yesterday, is not only to prevent weapons and materials that could be used to develop weapons to the Strip, but to prevent Gazan development to the point where the population turns against Hamas.  I also echoed Peter Beinart in that same post, pointing out that that particular strategy doesn’t seem to be working very well.  The Gazan population, along with the rest of the world, seems a lot more pissed off at Israel than they do the rest of the world.  It seems at this point in time that there’s a good enough reason to re-think the terms of the embargo, allow those materials into Gaza which would not—indeed, could not—be used to make weapons, like canned fruit and nutmeg (you laugh, but it’s true).  Of course, there is one proviso:

Hamas declines to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence or accept previous accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The diplomatic group known as the Quartet, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, has said that until Hamas meets those requirements, the Quartet will not deal with it.

It remains amazing that the whole world can be upset with Israeli policy when its closest neighbor is literally trying to wipe it off the map.  Still, it’s not in Israel’s (or, for that matter, our) interest to become the North Korea of the Middle East.  It may be that Israel will always fly solo over there, but it strikes me as a really bad idea to allow Iranian regional hegemony because of some dispute with an organization that’s basically blockaded from all sides.  Trimming, not ending, the terms of the blockade seems like a good way to ease the bad PR while not giving any demonstrable advantage to Hamas.  Good move.

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