Israel to “hermetically seal” Gaza Strip?

The punditocracy may well be correct that the Israel-Palestine peace process that the Obama White House is now attempting to jump-start is doomed to failure—but their analyses as to why are predictably skewed. Bonnie Erbe writes in US News & World Report: “How can two sides negotiate as long as Hamas flouts Palestinian Authority control? …[A]s long as the Gaza problem continues to exist, there can be no peace for Israel…” It has been a fundamental of all peace proposals since the Oslo process began that there be some kind of corridor linking the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Yet Ma’an News Agency reported July 16 that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is proposing to do just the opposite—to unilaterally separate Gaza from the West Bank, allowing it to function as an independent entity—but behind “hermetically sealed” borders, making the enclave even more of a de facto open-air prison camp than it already is.

Ma’an News Agency also reported that day that both Hamas and Fatah have rejected Lieberman’s plan. Note that it was announced more than a month before Hamas resumed armed attacks this week.

So how come we never see statements in the mass media like “As long as the Israel problem continues to exist, there can be no peace for Gaza”?

Just asking.

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  1. How real is “easing” of Gaza siege?
    Even as Avigdor Lieberman threatens to “hermetically seal” the Gaza Strip, a so-called “easing” of the siege is ostensibly underway. The Israel-based Gaza Gateway blog, which closely monitors the facts of access and egress in the enclave, offers this deconstruction Sept. 21:

    Facts Behind MFA Report on “Easing” of Gaza Closure
    In advance of today’s meeting of the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) for assistance to the Palestinians, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) released a report detailing steps taken to improve Gaza’s economy pursuant to a June 20, 2010 Israeli Cabinet decision to “ease” the closure. The following is a summary of the main points of the MFA report and data which places the information in context.

    True: “Traffic has increased significantly. The number of trucks coordinated with the PA normally reaches the current maximum capacity of 250 trucks a day.”

    More True: While the volume of trucks has increased, it was still at just 38% of demand in the last month, due to Israel’s refusal to re-open crossings it has closed since 2007.

    True: “Real GDP growth in the first half of 2010 (compared to the first half of 2009) is estimated by the IMF at 9 percent for the West Bank and 16 percent for Gaza.”

    More true: The IMF report points out that growth is reflected in part because the first half of 2009, which included the military operation “Cast Lead” and its aftermath, represents a very low base or point of comparison. GDP per capita for Gaza is still 40% less than it was in 1994 and has yet to recover to 2007 levels, due to an apparently ongoing Israeli policy of “economic warfare”, including a ban on exports. The IMF has noted that true and sustainable economic recovery requires lifting the ban on exports and removing remaining restrictions on entrance of raw materials.

    True: “Growth in the field of construction reached more than 20% in the first quarter of 2010 (in comparison to the parallel quarter in 2009).”

    More true: The parallel quarter in 2009 included the military operation “Cast Lead”, in which buildings were still being actively destroyed by the Israeli military. Due to onerous approval requirements and limited capacity of the crossings, just 132 truckloads of cement and gravel have entered Gaza since the “easing”, even though tens of thousands are needed. The UN notes, at this rate, it would take approximately 75 years to bring in the materials needed for UNRWA’s reconstruction plan.

    True: “A number of projects have already been fully implemented or are currently underway. These projects include… Delivery of containers to serve as classrooms, a UN project.”

    More True: Children in UNRWA schools attend classes in the aforementioned shipping containers, because despite the “easing”, Israel has yet to approve entry of a single truckload of construction materials for the 100 new schools UNRWA has requested to build.

    True: “In July…a total of 2,457 exit permits were granted [to leave the Gaza Strip].”

    More true: This is less than 1% of the number of exits in Sept. 2000, before Israel imposed tight restrictions. Israel has announced that “[the easing] does nothing to expand the criteria [for travel]”.