Israel says it will now permit more goods into Gaza, easing the three-year blockade but still blocking "weapons and materials that Hamas uses." The new Gaza policy comes after Israel announced on Thursday that it would ease its land blockade restrictions. What exactly Israel plans for "liberalizing the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza" remains unclear as the country has not specified what goods will remain prohibited. Israel has previously taken a broad view of what it calls "dual use" items, such as concrete or construction tools, that they say could be used to produce weapons. Here are the possible effects of the blockade loosening.
- 'Diplomatic Relaxation' With U.S. The New York Times' Isabel Kershner says the new policy "earned unusual praise from the Obama administration" and won Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu a July 6 meeting with Obama. "There were other new signs of a diplomatic relaxation of the crisis atmosphere that prevailed after the flotilla raid. Mr. Netanyahu announced the Gaza changes jointly in Jerusalem with Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers."
- Vague Possibility of Economic Growth The Guardian's Harriet Sherwood writes, "The crucial issue of whether commercial goods will be allowed to cross into Gaza to allow the recovery of its crippled economy was not explicitly addressed in the statements. Decisions are still pending, according to an Israeli official. Blair's office insisted that the intention was 'to get the private sector going'. ... The blockade has caused a humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza, say aid agencies, leaving 80% of Gazans dependent on handouts and leading to the closure of thousands of businesses."
- Flotilla Investigation 'Whitewash' So Reconstruction Can Begin Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch writes, "the Israeli government will significantly ease the blockade of Gaza in exchange for American support for a whitewash of the investigation of the flotilla incident. ... this is a good deal. No investigation was ever going to produce anything of any particular value, but easing the blockade of Gaza could have significant positive effects for the people of Gaza, the prospects of Palestinian reconciliation, the peace process, and American credibility in the region. ... To get the most out of this move, it should only be the first step. The UN, NGOs, and the international community should take advantage of the new system to begin serious reconstruction and development efforts."
- 'Small Step' Back Toward Pre-Blockade Status Liberal blogger Juan Cole explains, "Israelis can continue the blockade even with a smaller list of prohibited items by limiting truck traffic through the checkpoints. That traffic is tiny now compared to the period before 2006, and Sunday’s announcement may not increase it that much. ... how many items are let in is less important than the volume of each ... If the increase is only 30% of the present truck traffic, that would be about 23% of the trucks that routinely traveled into Gaza before the blockade, up from the 17% of the pre-blockade number that has been characteristic in the past year. A 'small step' indeed."
- Israel-U.S. 'Wall' Coming Down? Liberal blogger Steve Hynd writes, "the Gaza Flotilla episode has undermined something crucial in the united-we-stand wall that the US and Israeli have presented to the world. Such crises will come easier and can be smaller now, garnering positive publicity gradually through events that will not all be as shocking as the Flotilla attack. By forcing this small retreat, future Israeli and U.S. retreats will come easier and faster. Thus, although it sticks in my craw to countenance a lack of legal accountability for the Flotilla assault, I'll reluctantly take the product, if that leads to a wall being tore down, instead."