The lifting of the Gaza Strip blockade is the focal point of public interest these days. Israel’s government faces a problematic situation in global public opinion in light of condemnations by the Security Council and by some states, including Israel’s allies.
The whole world is talking about the need to lift the Gaza blockade. Hence, and because of no other reason, we saw the Israeli decision to ease the siege somewhat and allow civilian goods to enter the Strip.
However, the Israeli government must know that these moves are insufficient and that it must adopt further steps. Otherwise, global public opinion won’t change and the world will continue to say that Gazans face collective punishment and that the Strip faces a difficult, inhumane siege.
Some members of Israel’s government, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, wish to get rid of Gaza via gradual detachment of remaining links. In their view, cutting off the water and electricity supply to the Strip would make Israel’s responsibility for Gaza disappear, with the Strip’s problems shifting to Egypt and the international community.
By adopting such moves, these Israeli officials also wish to show the world that there is no legitimate Palestinian leadership that governs all areas of Palestine, including Gaza, therefore arguing that securing a peace agreement with any Palestinian leadership is impossible.
Adopting this line of thought would avert Palestinian-Israeli peace, as the only way to secure an agreement between the two sides is the two-state solution, on the basis of such understandings as the Clinton parameters and Geneva Initiative. If there is no Palestinian state on the horizon that would include the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one whole, there will be no peace in the region and no Palestinian would agree to a compromise on that front.
Hamas growing strongerThe Palestinian leadership cannot accept disconnection of Gaza from the West Bank and would not allow Israel to do it under any circumstances. In addition, and as opposed to what Israel wants, Hamas grows stronger because of the blockade. It grows rich via the smuggling of goods while also enjoying international interest in the Strip.
Hamas is also becoming stronger thanks to the organizers of Gaza-bound flotillas. Indeed, not every person who arrives on those ships wishes to see peace in the region and an independent, prosperous Palestinian state. Some of them wish to express their support for Hamas, rather than for the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, an important part of flotilla organizers belong to Islamic Movements such as the Muslim Brothers. However, no Palestinian (and this is certainly true for the Palestinian leadership) can speak out against a movement that aims to show solidarity with the people.
At the same time, it’s important for the Israeli people to know that while the Palestinian majority wishes the solidarity movement with Gazans to prompt the lifting of the siege, it is also interested in advancing a diplomatic process and in reaching a compromise with Israel. This is a Palestinian interest that is also an Israeli interest.
The immediate move required of Israel is to open all the crossings that link the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, including the safe passage, to civilian movement. This would boost the Palestinian Authority, make the lives of Palestinians easier, weaken Hamas, and may stimulate a substantive diplomatic process.
Ashraf al-Ajarmi, the former Palestinian Authority minister for prisoner affairs, is among the leaders of the Palestinian Geneva Initiative
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