News yesterday that Israel is finally allowing building materials into Gaza, which has been deprived of them since Operation Cast Lead reduced much the infrastructure to rubble, was good to hear, but I’m still left slightly skeptical. First of all, it’s limited: supplies can be used only on projects that have been previously approved by Israel. This is merely another imposition, another example of the overwhelming weight of Israeli domination down to the minutiae of Palestinian life. It proves Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was never meant to give any sort of sovereignty to Gazans, and it raises the concern that this easing of the blockade is not only limited, but temporary.
I don’t know to what extent this move is a response or an acknowledgement of the aid flotilla that will set sail for Gaza (which Israel warned against with a more or less promised use of force), but if it is I feel that’s more reason to suspect this decision is extremely temporary.
Meanwhile, the indelible caricature of himself Elliot Abrams is huffing and puffing over an open letter to President Obama just published in the New York Review of Books from a group of prominent academics and public intellectuals about Israel-Palestine. It urges the most prosaic and reasonable approach to the conflict (1967 lines with minor and mutual swaps, sharing Jerusalem, solution to refugee problem, security guarantees, etc.), but Abrams can’t believe his ears: they are “blaming almost every aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel and urging heavy American pressure to change Israeli policy.” He of course totally ignores the fact that his opposition to this sacrilege is a recipe for conflict with no end in sight.
Israel has of course been concerned about the Arab Spring for similar reasons the U.S. is concerned: policy ought not reflect the will of the people in that region. Huff Po:
“We are looking at an area which is under a political turmoil, something we have not witnessed for maybe 90 years since the collapse of the Ottoman empire, he said. “I cannot say that their (others in the government) doubts don’t have a certain foundation but I still believe despite all uncertainty Israel should make a real attempt to enter negotiations.”
Since the beginning of the year, the Arab world has been wracked by pro-democracy demonstrations, which brought down the governments in Tunisia and Israel’s neighbor Egypt.
There has been some worry in Israel that the new governments that emerge in the region might be more hostile to the Jewish state than their predecessors. Israeli skeptics note that elections in the Middle East have brought groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to power.
“It’s clear to us that (with) these events of the Arab spring that under certain situation we might find ourselves having to defend ourselves alone,” Barak said.
Unfortunately U.S.-Israeli policy has not adapted to the changing environment; there is complete obstinacy in the face of these potential changes, despite plenty of opportunity to settle for peace with only minor concessions. Little victories like being allowed to re-building your bombed homes and schools are not enough to postpone much needed honesty about U.S. policy in this regard.