BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 111, June 30, 2010, by Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies:
The recent decision of the Israeli government to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip works more in favor of strengthening Hamas rule than it does toward advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The international pressure that led to this move indicates a gross misunderstanding of Israel's right to self-defense as well as a grave misperception as to Israel's responsibilities as a non-occupying power.
It is clear that the international community has succumbed to the anti-Israel propaganda war.
Bowing to misguided international pressure, particularly from the West, the Israeli government, on June 20, 2010, lifted nearly three years of restrictions on civilian goods allowed into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The restrictions had been imposed in reaction to the repeated launching of missiles into Israel's population centers. This decision hardly makes any strategic sense because it helps Hamas, an ally of revolutionary Islamist Iran. Both are anti-Western forces focused on destroying the Jewish state.
Giving Credence to Hamas
The easing of the blockade reflects the success of a Hamas propaganda campaign to depict the situation in Gaza as a humanitarian disaster. While Gaza is not prospering, the standard of living there is generally higher than in Egypt – a little noticed fact. The ability of this Goebbels-type propaganda to entrench a tremendous lie in the consciousness of the international community testifies to the continued vulnerability of naive Westerners to sophisticated psychological warfare and to the complicity of much of the Western press in this enterprise.
The step taken by the Israeli government also significantly helps Hamas strengthen its grip on Gazans, as Hamas controls the distribution of any goods entering its territory. Moreover, even if Hamas allows for a general improvement in the daily lives of all Gazans, this reduces the incentive for regime change, which should be part of the Western goal to give Gazans a better future. Strengthening this radical theological regime in the eastern Mediterranean, which is linked to revolutionary Iran, defies Western rational thinking.
The entrenchment of Hamas rule in Gaza amplifies the schism in Palestinian society and strengthens Hamas' influence in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. It is also a slap in the face of President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the PA, who demanded the blockade's continuation. Hamas' achievement here further undermines whatever ability, albeit very limited, the Palestinian national movement had to move toward a compromise with the Jewish state.
The international pressure that led to the Israeli decision also indicates a gross misunderstanding of Israel's predicament and its legitimate right of self-defense. Israel totally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, hoping that the Gazans would focus their energy on state-building and achieving prosperity. Gaza could have decided to try to become a Hong Kong or a Singapore. Yet, Hamas turned Gaza into a political entity engaged in waging war on the Jewish state by launching thousands of missiles with the specific intent to harm Israeli civilians. Ironically, Hamas demands that Israel allow a supply of goods into the Strip.
It is legally and morally outrageous to claim that Israel is responsible for the Gazans, who are no longer under Israeli occupation and who have supported in great numbers the rule of Hamas. After the 2005 withdrawal, Israel's responsibilities – stemming from previously being an occupying power – ended.
Since Gaza is an enemy country, it does not deserve any special treatment from Israel beyond the latter's legitimate steps taken in pursuit of self-defense. Israel, like any other sovereign state, has every right to close its border with a belligerent neighbor. Moreover, it has no obligation whatsoever to provide water, electricity, fuel or access to food and/or medical supplies to its forsworn enemies. Why on earth should Israel aid those that want to eradicate its existence?
The bewildering and hypocritical international response to Israel's attempts to prevent war materiel from reaching Gaza, as manifested in the criticism surrounding the "Gaza flotilla" incident, should be of great concern to Jerusalem. Again, we see the successful application of a propaganda war whose objective is to deny Israel its legitimate right of self-defense. This campaign is part of a larger plan designed by the enemies of the West to neutralize the superior capacity of the West, and Israel in particular.
Instead of easing the blockade, the Israeli government should have announced its intention to exercise its sovereign right to close the border with Gaza and to halt the transfer of any goods to its enemy within several months. Israel must make clear to the world that it refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of Gazan residents, particularly since they are employing violence against the Jewish state.
The period of time leading up to the actual border closure should be used to establish alternative routes of supply via Egypt, which also borders Gaza. Egypt is unlikely to welcome such a development because it prefers to keep the Gaza hot potato in Israel's lap. However, the Egyptians are much more adept at dealing with the Gazans, whom they ruled in the past using Arab methods. The Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere are not only Israel's problem, but constitute a regional headache. Therefore, responsible Arab actors should take part in addressing this issue.