Gaza blockade angst

If you don’t think the tide is turning against Israel’s Gaza blockade, you’re just not paying attention. There are numerous reports Israel is looking for a way out of what seems like a punitive and arbitrary blockade, but I suspect that won’t do much to counteract the intense and mostly negative worldwide scrutiny that followed the botched Gaza flotilla raid and the lame Israeli PR efforts to justify it.

Sure, anti-Israel bias was one factor in that worldwide reaction. But its sheer intensity was also a function of the blockheaded way the Israels implemented and enforced a blockade that clearly wasn’t about weapons and security but about punishing the Gaza voters who brought Hamas to power.

If you want to see how the blockade situation has changed, check out Elie Wiesel’s op-ed in the New York Daily News on Monday. While mostly defending Israel’s actions in the flotilla raid and condemning the international reaction, Wiesel makes a point most Jewish leaders don’t want to hear: “And now serious questions need to be answered. Is a blockade the only solution to the problem? Were other alternatives examined?”

Despite enormous international pressure, the Obama administration has been pretty restrained on the blockade issue. The shift in international attention following the flotilla raid may change that. There were reports that President Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spent most of their meeting yesterday talking about the blockade, and the President called the Gaza situation “unsustainable” and pledged $400 million in extra U.S. aid – some of it slated for humanitarian services in Gaza.

Pro-Israel groups here are gamely continuing to defend the blockade on “security” grounds, but the renewed focus on exactly what Israel is blockading is making their job harder – and undermining their credibility – by the day. Concrete and coriander? That sure doesn’t sound like security.

So let’s add it all up.

By most accounts Hamas is stronger because of the blockade, the Palestinian people are angrier, Israel is much more isolated and Washington is unhappier with its impact on their other foreign policy priorities.

Oh yes, guns, rockets and ammunition continue to flow into Gaza through the tunnels even as ordinary Gazans are doing without their coriander. And Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier whose plight was another early justification for the blockade, isn’t any closer to freedom.

So tell me again: how, exactly, is this blockade serving Israel’s interests?

I don’t envy the pro-Israel leaders here who are trying to explain all this on “security” grounds; I suspect some of them are full of quiet angst about an Israeli leadership that doesn’t seem to know what the heck it’s doing.


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.