time for real disengagement
The attempt to control Gaza
from outside, via its residents' diet and shopping lists, casts a heavy moral
stain on Israel
and increases its international isolation.
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz,
"flotilla affair" offers a good opportunity to complete the
disengagement from the Gaza Strip, five years after Israel withdrew. It's time to sever
the last ties of the occupation and leave Hamastan to its own devices.
attempt to control Gaza from outside, via its
residents' diet and shopping lists, casts a heavy moral stain on Israel and
increases its international isolation. Every Israeli should be ashamed of the
list of goods prepared by the Defense Ministry, which allows cinnamon and
plastic buckets into Gaza,
but not houseplants and coriander. It's time to find more important things for
our officers and bureaucrats to do than update lists.
could a disengagement be done? Israel would inform the international community
that it is abandoning all responsibility for Gaza residents and their welfare. The
Israel-Gaza border would be completely sealed, and Gaza would have to obtain supplies and
medical services via the Egyptian border, or by sea. A target date would be set
for severing Gaza's water and electricity
systems from those of Israel.
The customs union with Israel
would end, and the shekel would cease to be Gaza's legal tender. Let them print their own
Palestinian currency, featuring portraits of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Israel would also make it clear that it will
exercise its right to self-defense by inspecting suspicious cargo on the high
seas in order to thwart arms smuggling. That is also how the Western powers
behave: They search cargo ships for nuclear weapons and missile components. And
if we are shot at from Gaza,
we will shoot back - with intent to cause harm. We have already proved that we
can do so.
scenario has a precedent: Until the peace agreement was signed with Egypt, all of Israel's borders were sealed tight.
foreign trade was conducted entirely via its air and sea ports. Even today,
traffic over its land borders remains negligible.
isn't pleasant, but it is legal. A sovereign state has the right to close its
borders, especially when its neighbors are hostile and hate-filled.
situation in which the border is intermittently open, based on the judgment of
some anonymous Defense Ministry bureaucrat, is no longer acceptable to the
world. It is perceived as intolerable brutality toward the civilian population
of the party being blockaded.
Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza
all the way to the Green Line, and hoped thereby to obtain international acknowledgment that the occupation had ended. But Israel
did not truly succeed in disengaging.
before Hamas took control of the Strip, Israel insisted
on controlling entry to and exit from it. After Hamas
won the Palestinian election, and Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, the blockade and the supervisory
regime only tightened.
was as if Israel had
regretted the disengagement at the last moment and sought to retain at least a
little something - a tiny handful of hated Gaza.
the blockade of Gaza has a fourfold purpose: to compel the Palestinians to
reunite Gaza with the West Bank under a leadership friendly to Israel; to
pressure Hamas to restrain the rocket fire and other
attempts to attack Israel; to maintain the fiction that the Palestinian
Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas
and Salam Fayyad, is still the legal sovereign in Gaza; and to prevent friction
with Egypt, which fears the opening of its border with the Palestinians.
judging by the results, this policy has been unsatisfactory. True, strategic
cooperation with Egypt has
been strengthened, and Hamas has been restrained
since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza
in 2008-09. But Hamas' control over the Strip has not
weakened. Abbas and Fayyad exercise no authority in Gaza.
Israeli public is being told that the ban on coriander and the like is aimed at
"helping Gilad Shalit."
The very mention of the captive soldier now languishing in a Hamas prison has prevented any serious discussion of what
policy Israel should adopt
But this merely demonstrates the government's populism and lack of leadership:
It is hiding behind Shalit and his family, who justly
have the public's sympathy, instead of seeking a new reality.
who oppose Israel's very
existence will continue to fight and persecute it even if Jerusalem
abandons the last shred of responsibility for Gaza. No disengagement will persuade them to
change. But they are not the audience at which Israeli policy is aimed: Its
target audience is Western governments, from which it needs support and with
which it needs diplomatic and economic ties. And these Western governments are
telling it to end the blockade and free Gaza.
deadly operation against the aid flotilla has only strengthened these demands.
Hence this is Israel's
opportunity. Instead of arguing with the international community, it should tell
it: You want Gaza?
Fine. Take it.