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Gaza flotilla: Why the blockade makes sense for Israel

Until Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist and stops launching rocket attacks, Israel may have to continue the Gaza blockade.

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He indicated that Israel should agree to the right of millions of Palestinians to relocate in Israel and not just a new Palestinian state, and then this should be put forward to a referendum of all of the world’s Palestinians (not just the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza), and then who knows. Not much hope there.

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So who would ensure that a lifted blockade from Gaza would not permit more rockets to come into Gaza? No countries have volunteered to be peace enforcers on Gaza’s borders.

The European Union agreed to monitor a crossing point in Rafah, which is easier than enforcement as it requires no robust military presence but only computers – proverbial pencils – to issue reports.

Yet, even this is a pale challenge to the 12-kilometer southern border with Egypt, where smuggling has occurred. Yet, even at the Rafah crossing alone, the EU monitors repeatedly fled the scene when the going got rough during the past few years.

Complicating the situation further is the fact that reporting does not suggest that Gaza is on the verge of catastrophe. This is what the Financial Times’s Tobias Buck wrote from Rafah just last week, alluding to the tunnel smuggling: “[T]he prices of many smuggled goods have fallen in recent months, thanks to a supply glut that is on striking displays across the [Gaza] Strip.”

The tunnel smuggling, Mr. Buck writes, has “become so efficient that shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods. Branded products such as Coca-cola, Nescafe, Snickers and Heinz ketchup – long absent as a result of the Israeli blockade – are both cheap and widely available.”

This suggests that the blockade has certainly not led to Gaza being on the brink of starvation.

The unspoken argument for the blockade is that it has been effective. In the past two years, Hamas leadership continually trails the popularity of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah in the West Bank as people understand that Hamas has not been able to declare business as usual.

Moreover, Israel has a silent partner in supporting the blockade: Egypt. Though Egypt announced a lifting of the blockade today, past gestures by the Mubarak government suggest this move will be equally short-lived. Cairo was willing to withstand protests at its embassies in the Arab world during the 2008-09 Gaza war, but still refused to open up its Rafah border crossing to Hamas.