The deceptive conduct that characterized the Olmert-led government vis-à-vis the Palestinian theater throughout its term in office has reached its peak – or is it in fact a nadir – at the end of its tenure. While the PM continues to hold meetings filled with smiles and hallucinate peace plans, his foreign minister tells the UN secretary general that Israel has no intention of stopping the process of starving a million and a half besieged Gaza residents.
As we know, we are in the midst of an election campaign in Israel, and the foreign minister is interested in displaying the kind of determination many observers doubt she has, even if this comes at the expense of Israel’s international standing, which is under her responsibility. So even though the UN chief issued a reprimand and Jordan’s King Abdullah was concerned to the point of urgently summoning our prime minister and defense minister to a meeting at his residence, the Israeli government is insistent: The Gaza siege shall not be lifted as long as Qassam rockets are being fired at Israel.
Of course, nobody doubts the government’s right, and even duty, to provide security for Negev residents, yet we should note that the lull between Israel and Hamas, which lasted about five months, was violated in the wake of Israeli military activity within the Gaza Strip that prompted Qassam barrages. This operation served as further testament that Israel still views the Gaza Strip as an area under its absolute control in every way, and reserves the right to do whatever it wants there; a sort of occupation by remote control.
There is something horrifying about the ease with which an Israeli defense minister can, by uttering a few words, disrupt the daily lives of about a million and a half people. The laconic decision on “curbing the transfer of goods into the Strip” has been translated into difficult survival conditions in Gaza for about a month now. Due to fuel shortages, the power stations in Gaza have been gravely destabilized, a fact that causes daily power outages of six to 10 hours. Meanwhile, many families have run out of cooking gas, and are now forced to cook their meals using bonfires and coal in the backyard. The flour supply is expected to run out in a day or two, and a severe shortage of bread is already being felt at bakeries. And all this continues while the winter season, which does not recognize international borders, is creeping into the Strip’s alleyways.
Empty gestures to AbbasDoes Ehud Barak really think that hungry and shaking Gaza children are the solution that would bring an end to the Qassam fire directed at the Negev? And while Israel blatantly violates international law, which explicitly bans collective punishment of a civilian population, has our government outlined some kind of red line that would prompt an end to the violent siege? Would photos of bodies piling up on the streets be the only thing that puts an end to this immoral conduct?
Elsewhere, President and Nobel Prize Laureate Shimon Peres met with Prince Charles, urging him to work for the release of Gilad Shalit. Peres did well to direct global attention to the Shalit issue, yet as he looks in the direction of the Gaza Strip he would do well to also listen to the words of another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mairead Maguire, who called for revoking Israel’s UN membership in light of its blatant disregard for resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sir Peres, the veteran politician, certainly grasps the implication of those words for Israel’s international standing. He also knows well that abusing Strip residents would not bring Shalit’s release forward by one day even, because the key to his return is sitting in Israeli prisons, not in the alleyways of the starving Gaza.
The Israeli government could have secured Gilad’s release a few days after he was taken captive, yet it chose to ignore Hamas’ demands – which have only grown with the passage of time – and instead released other prisoners as an empty gesture to Mahmoud Abbas, as it is unable to elicit the courage and honesty required in order to extract the two peoples from the cycle of horror and pain.
Israel can continue to ignore the growing international criticism against it, or hint, as it tends to do, that these are expressions of anti-Semitic perceptions. However, should it choose to do so, the IDF’s baseless statements to the media may have to be complemented with hard work on preparing a defense for the International Court of Justice at the Hague.