Monday, May 30, 2011

The Future of the Blockade

In today's Haaretz, Shlomo Avineri says Israel should be happy that Egypt opened up the Rafah crossing, and he thinks this should mean the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. We'd no longer have any responsibilty toward Gaza, since we would no longer control all its borders, its airspace and its waters. We will close our border with the Strip, but passage of people and goods in and out of the territory via the Egypt-Gaza border, the sea and air would be unhindered. Israel's relations with Gaza would be like its relations with Lebanon: nobody passes the Israeli-Lebanese border, but Lebanon isn't under blockade.

This would not be a threat to Israel, he says. Weapons and terrorists have been streaming in through the tunnels anyway, so the situation would not be any worse. He even thinks it would be better politically. Any new Free Gaza Flotillas won't be able to complain about a blockade that has been lifted, and if they just reach Gaza without a problem, they would barely get any attention.

Avineri's claims are worth considering. He has some very good points, but I still have a few concerns about this scenario. First of all, while it is true that weapons flow into Gaza right now, I fear that without the blockade, the volume of arms smuggling would increase, and larger, more sophisticated weapons which can't be brought in through tunnels would now become available to the Hamas.

Second of all, if we don't control Gaza's airspace, we might be opening the door to 9/11 style terrorism. Major Israeli cities are very close to Gaza, and planes can enter Israel and crash into buildings before fighter jets could be launched to intercept them. Airplanes would be much more lethal than the Gazans' current arsenal of rockets.

Unless security experts tell me my fears are unfounded, I'd rather we alleviate the blockade by allowing the free flow into Gaza of people and goods, under our inspection at our own border checkpoints and out at sea (in other words, board flotillas, inspect them and then allow them to reach Gaza as long as there are no weapons on board). Yes, we'll still look like the bad guys, but I'd rather live with bad PR than die with a public opinion triumph.


  1. Firstly, from what I understand, the Rafah crossing seems to be openish rather than actually open, lots of limitations continue to apply.

    Secondly with ‘9/11 style terrorism’ you seem really to have taken a flight of fantasy (or: how 9/11 is seared into the psyche of even moderately rational Americans - sadly al Qaeda did achieve something)

    Tell me, do they have significant planes in Gaza (open question, not rhetorical)? If not, are they supposed to build some in their underground armouries? So far they haven’t even managed to create a crude version of the V1 (perhaps one powered with rubber bands?) so I don’t see them build anything even near to a two-seater Cessna (perhaps run on chip fat biodiesel?) anytime soon.

    Your concerns confirm my view that a Palestinian state may never come to pass: if a quasi-open Rafah crossing conjures up images of fuel packed airliners smashing into Israeli towns and cities then what kind of fear must a fully fledged Palestinian state set your imagination on fire?

    And of course it explains those wonderful ‘opportunities the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss’: marvelous proposals for a ‘demilitarised state’ (national security provided presumably courtesy of the IDF?), absence of air sovereignty (with the IDF air force flying overhead day and night and nothing you can do about it) and other niceties that no one of sound mind would ever accept. Except the Palestinians: they’re supposed to swallow that pill without chewing…

  2. It's not the opening of the Rafah crossing that concerns me, but rather Shlomo Avineri's idea of fully removing the blockade (and then, whether or not Rafah is fully open would not matter, because people and goods would be able to leave by air and sea).

    Right now, there are no planes in Gaza. However, if Gaza is given full control of its airspace, planes can come from the outside into Gaza, and from there to anywhere in Israel.