Israel to relax Gaza blockade

Israel announced that it would loosen its blockade of Gaza to allow more goods to flow into the territory.

They'll get no credit for it among their detractors, of course. But still, it should help assuage the feelings of those who support the idea of the blockade but believe it to have been too restrictive.

The Washington Post:

Israel's security cabinet, a grouping of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's closest advisers, agreed to "liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza" and "expand the inflow" of building materials for civilian construction projects under international supervision, a statement released by Netanyahu's spokesman said.

The statement said Israel would continue "existing security procedures" to prevent the transfer of "weapons and war materiel" to the Gaza Strip and that the Israeli cabinet would decide in the coming days on additional steps to implement the policy. Israel also called on the international community to work toward the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

The announcement came after two days of consultations by the security cabinet and two weeks of feverish, behind-the-scenes diplomacy involving Israeli, American and European diplomats who discussed ways to loosen the blockade.

The question being asked: what exactly does Israel seek to accomplish with the blockade?

If it was only interdiction of military supplies to Hamas, they would allow building materials and other civilian goods through to Gaza. But an ancillary goal of the blockade is to make life so difficult for Gazans that they overthrow or vote out Hamas. It's not working at this point so a relaxation of some of the blockade's strictures might generate a little international goodwill while still maintaining the main reason for having the blockade in the first place.

Those predisposed to see Israel as the villain won't be swayed. But on another level, this move makes sense if you consider that these small concessions to American and European sensibilities makes it easier for them to support Israel at the UN and elsewhere.

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