Ghassan Khatib
June 28, 2010 - 12:00am

The three-year old Israeli blockade on Gaza has come under intense international scrutiny ever since Israel criminally boarded a flotilla of ships in international waters, killing nine activists coming to show solidarity with Gaza.

The closure regime was always much more than "just" collective punishment on 1.5 million Palestinians to pressure Hamas, due either to the capture of Gilad Shalit or rockets fired at Israel.

For a start, it began more than a year before the Palestinian political split and the Hamas takeover of Gaza. It rather came as part of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip settlements and is an essential part of an Israeli strategy that aims at dealing with some of the demographic considerations of the conflict by getting rid of 1.5 million Palestinians.

This Israeli strategy was, in other words, aimed at countering the Palestinian and international vision of peace based on the two-state solution. By systematically trying to shift the dependency of Gaza on the West Bank and Israel to somewhere else, i.e., Egypt, Israel has been trying to de-link Gaza from the West Bank and consequently create a reality not conducive to the creation of a Palestinian state in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

But Israel was caught between this strategic dimension of its siege policy on Gaza and the growing pressure from the international community, whose attention to the blockade was brought firmly into focus by the flotilla crime.

Israel has tried to escape that pressure in two ways. First, Israel wanted to encourage movement to and from Gaza via either the sea--with international inspection or through Ashdod--or Egypt. The second has been to close an eye to the movement through Rafah between Gaza and Egypt. The common denominator was that Israel was willing to entertain ideas that avoided easing the closure at the crossings between Gaza and Israel.

The Palestinian position, which was understood and supported by the Quartet--the UN, the US, the EU and Russia--insisted however that the lifting of the closure or even the easing of the blockade should include all Gaza's passages, including those between Gaza and Israel.

That was for two reasons, one to ensure and maintain the connection and movement of persons and products between the West Bank and Gaza. All the international parties believe that any solution to the conflict must include an independent Palestinian state in those two areas. The second reason was to prevent Israel from escaping its responsibilities toward Gaza. The international community still considers Gaza an Israeli-occupied territory, since Israel continues to control its borders, sea- and air-space.

For all these reasons, the Israeli decision to ease the siege, which was described by the Israeli media as "liberalizing" the closure, was seen as a satisfactory measure neither by the Palestinians nor by the international community.

Both reacted by suggesting resuming the implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, which stipulates the free and flexible movement of persons and products through all Gaza crossings with the necessary legal, financial and security arrangements that were accepted and agreed by the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Israel and the US.

The AMA further stresses the interrelation and connectivity in all necessary aspects between the West Bank and Gaza, including ensuring the smooth movement of Palestinians and products between the two areas, within the West Bank and between the occupied territories and the outside world.


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