Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis Is Not a Surprise--It’s What We Wanted"


The failure of the international community to confront Israel's decision to isolate Gaza from Israel and the West Bank is at the root of the web of crises centered on Gaza today. However understandable the international focus on Gaza's humanitarian emergency, what is at issue is the fact that Gaza's current nightmare is the consequence of Israel's continuing effort to separate the political, economic, and security destiny of the West Bank from that of the Gaza Strip--an objective that the international community has tacitly supported because of opposition to Hamas' rule in Gaza (for more on this, see Tony Karon's piece in Time magazine and Marc Lynch's Middle East Channel post). 


That said, the economic strangulation of Gaza actually preceded Hamas' election victory in January 2006 and Fateh's bloody expulsion from Gaza in June 2007. It is rooted in Israel's 2004 decision to "disengage" from Gaza. This policy resulted in an end to Israel's permanent security and settlement deployment in Gaza, but also to a marked a change in its economic, trade, and labor relationship with the territory. An Israeli policy of economic estrangement along the Israel-Gaza frontier aimed at minimizing the transit of Palestinians, Palestinian labor, and economic trade across the Gaza Strip-Israel border and forcing Egypt to re-assume the economic and security role it played in Gaza before Israel's June 1967 occupation. This latter policy represented a reversal of Israeli policies pursued from the inception of occupation in June 1967, and it enjoys broad popular support in Israel. 

Draconian restrictions on the entry of Palestinian labor to Israel, the failure to establish a reliable export/import regime through Karni and other crossings, and the stillborn safe passage route linking Gaza with the West Bank--all signature elements of policy before June 2007 and indeed before Hamas' parliamentary victory in January 2006--are the product of this strategic re-evaluation of Israeli interests. As such, the policies that have so stirred the international community in recent weeks are not incidental byproducts that can be solved by technical fixes of the kind now being proposed, but rather are integral to Israel's strategy. Even before June 2007, this system resulted in the creation of a "soft quarantine" that created substantial economic dislocation in Gaza and led to widespread flight of Gaza's manufacturing base.

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