Israel has announced an “easing” of the land blockade on Gaza, a largely symbolic step since large quantities of humanitarian and other supplies already enter Gaza.
While The NY Times and others portray this as a loss for Israel, which had to bow to world pressure, in reality this outcome would represent a victory for Israel because the most important goal of the blockade — the inspection of all goods whether brought by land or sea to prevent military supplies — now has international legitimacy.
To the extent there were purely consumer goods which were barred, such system was ineffective and senseless anyway, and Israel loses nothing by loosening up.
The naval blockade is not affected, which is the key because it was by sea that Iran was planning on supplying Hamas with more effective and deadly military supplies. Such supplies cannot get through on land in the quantities and size Hamas desires, although many smaller military supplies do get through smuggling tunnels.
Also unaffected are so-called “dual use” supplies, such as concrete, which Hamas desperately wants to build fortifications. Under the new plan, such items will be allowed in for international projects (which is what happens now anyway):
A statement said a new list of banned goods, including weapons and “dual-use” material, would be published as soon as possible. From then on, everything not on the list would be allowed in.
It did not make clear what building supplies would be permitted, a key area of dispute since the Israelis say cement can be used to build military fortifications. But it said construction material would be allowed for projects under “international supervision” such as schools, health facilities, housing, sanitation and water.
The Iranian ships which were supposed to arrive days ago have not done so, and the Lebanese ships filled with women do not appear to have left either. Reports in the Arab press indicate Lebanon will not allow the ships to leave port.
If Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah do not manage to spark a confrontation in the coming days, Israel will have weathered the storm because the easing of the land blockade likely will suffice to quiet European governments and the Obama administration.
The end result is that the Flotilla confrontation could be a disaster for Hamas, and ultimately a victory for Israel.
Turkey also is a big loser, as it now faces the choice of backing down in its confrontation with Israel or sparking another confrontation which further damages its ties with the West.
Equally important, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been exposed as a dangerous Islamist agitator willing to engage in reckless policies which do not help Turkey. While Erdogan may have earned applause on the street, he will be treated warily by those countries upon whom Turkey depends for military support and trade.
Not surprisingly, Hamas and its cohorts are furious at the compromise:
Ziad al–Zaza, a Hamas cabinet minister, called the Israeli move a “deception”. The blockade must be lifted completely “to allow Gaza to import all necessary materials, particularly cement, iron, raw materials for industry and agriculture, as well as import and export between Gaza and the world”, he said.
The absurd arguments by the blame-Israel-first crowd (sometimes also referred to as “Useful Idiots“) that Israel should not have a naval blockade have been revealed to be nothing more than ineffective appeasement of Islamists who do not accept appeasement as a road to peace.
No use calling the Useful Idiots out by name, they know who they are. And so do we.
As for the self-described “peace activists,” their 15 minutes of fame are almost over. They no longer are of use to anyone, so they can go back to shouting down speakers on campuses.
I certainly cannot predict that Turkey, Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah will not do something stupid and provoke another confrontation. But to do so now that the blockade has international legitimacy would be a futile and self-destructive gesture (which means there still is a 50/50 chance it will happen).
Update 6-21-2010: I disagree with Barry Rubin’s observation that the easing of the blockade will assist Hamas in staying in power. As Rubin notes, Hamas was not going anywhere anyway. Islamist regimes, even if elected, do not relinquish power through elections, so the effectiveness of the blockade in fomenting dissent was largely ineffective anyway.
This is the distinction people like Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal do not understand, or do not care about, when they equate Hamas to other democratically elected governments. While Hamas came to power through elections, it never will leave through elections. Hamas will kill or drive out all opposition, even if it means throwing people from roof tops as it did to Fatah members after Hamas took control. The model for Hamas is Iran, which has “democratic” elections but bans thousands of opposition candidates and arrests and kills opponents.
I agree with Rubin that Israel is in for the long haul with Hamas in Gaza (and possibly the West Bank in the near future). But the easing of the blockade is not the cause.
And Carl at Israel Matzav disagrees with me, in a post worth reading for a different view, Who won and who lost on the Gaza ‘blockade’?