The decision by Israel to “ease” the blockade of Gaza has evoked pretty strong opinions as to whether it represents a wise strategic move by Israel (my view) or a caving in which strengthens Hamas.
One thing is clear, however, the easing of the land blockade is collapsing an important source of Hamas tax revenue, the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
Hamas exacts a tax on the smugglers which Hamas then uses to acquire a controlling position in Gaza’s economy.
The mere suggestion that the land blockade would be eased has caused a collapse in the tunnel economy:
As the news spread that Israel would ease its four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, merchants in the territory’s main smugglers’ market raced to unload their merchandise.
The prices of televisions, refrigerators and washing machines that had been hauled hundreds of meters through tunnels beneath the Egyptian border plummeted in the Rafah border town’s sprawling Al-Najma market….
Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza off from all but basic goods in June 2006 following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants and tightened the closures a year later when the Hamas movement seized power.
Since then nearly all goods in the territory, including fuel, cigarettes, animals and appliances, have been brought in through a vast network of tunnels taxed and regulated by the Hamas-run government.
This is one more reason the Netanyahu government made the right decision. Civilian goods were getting to Gaza (contrary to allegations by the Islamist-Leftist Anti-Israel Coalition), but in a manner that allowed Hamas to benefit from controlling the smuggling tunnels.
While Hamas will be able to tax the goods coming through the crossing-points, the lower prices and more open movement of goods will not allow Hamas to exact as high a level of taxation as it imposed on the smugglers.
How long before the U.N. issues a report on how Israel has destroyed the living of thousands of Gaza smugglers?