Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Besieging Netanyahu | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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If anybody needs proof that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu does not want peace then decisive proof came in the form of the attacks launched by Israeli commandos on the Freedom Flotilla. The attacks carried out by special forces from within the Israeli navy were not just attacks on civil activists trying to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and trying to take aid to its residents who are under siege; rather the attack was to thwart attempts to revive the peace process. Netanyahu used the crisis that resulted from the attacks on the Freedom Flotilla as a pretext to cancel the meeting that was scheduled to take place with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, as he was expecting to face demands to speed up the process of negotiations. We still remember what the Netanyahu government did during the visit of the US Vice President Joe Biden when it announced the settlement housing project in Jerusalem in order to destroy or at least postpone American steps towards resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Israel is acting based on its arrogance of power and it does not see the need for peace and the concessions that it demands, particularly in light of the Palestinian division and the weak Arab position. Israel also considers itself above the law because the international community does not cut it off nor does it hold it accountable for its violations of international laws and conventions. By attacking the Freedom Flotilla, Israel violated international laws three times; firstly, the attack took place in international waters which violates the UN Charter and maritime law; secondly, the Israeli troops used excessive force against civilians in violation of the principles of the UN; thirdly, it imposed a blockade on Gaza, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention that prohibits collective punishment and highlights the importance of protection and humanitarian guarantees to civilians in conflict areas.

The statements of condemnation or even the Security Council’s call for an urgent investigation into the Freedom Flotilla attack and the killings will be of no avail in confronting Israeli arrogance. The crucial thing now is to break the blockade imposed on Gaza and end the suffering of its population. Around 1.4 million Palestinian people now live in one of the world’s most densely populated areas in inhuman circumstances as they are deprived of their basic rights stipulated by all human conventions and international conventions. UN statistics and reports indicate that 80 percent of residents of the Gaza Strip live under the poverty line and rely on humanitarian aid for their basic needs to be met. Whereas 60 percent are lacking water supplies and hospitals are lacking drugs and the necessary medications. According to international organizations, Israel allows supplies that meet only a quarter of the needs of Gaza’s residents.

It is true that there are disagreements with Hamas and accusations that it prioritizes its own interests and political concerns rather than [alleviating] the suffering of the Gazan people. In addition, many hold Hamas accountable for thwarting the efforts of unifying the Palestinians, thus weakening the position of the Palestinians and Arabs as a result. However, women, children, and the elderly in Gaza should not have to pay for the problems with Hamas. Justifications of the Gaza blockade are unacceptable both morally and humanly. Now is the time to lift the siege permanently and seek other means to solve the existing problems with Hamas, as three years have now passed since the blockade was first imposed and it has led to nothing but more suffering for the Palestinians. If the target was to weaken and topple Hamas, it is yet to fall and in fact has tightened its grip on the Gaza Strip. This means that this strategy has failed and that its moral and human cost is no longer acceptable.

This is where the significance of the measure that Egypt took as it opened the Rafah border crossing to allow humanitarian aid to get to Gaza comes in as it is regarded as a strong practical response to the arrogance of Netanyahu’s government. In order to keep the border crossing open, Hamas should not consider the sacrifice of the Freedom Flotilla a political gain that would justify the continuation of its policies that have weakened the Palestinian position and have contributed to the suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip. The Hamas movement must face up to its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people by resuming the reconciliation [process] and unifying the Palestinian rank. It must also reassure its Arab milieu after it went back on the Mecca Agreement and sought to cause problems with Egypt both at the border and across the border.

The intense atmosphere caused by the Israeli aggression on the Freedom Flotilla could be utilized not only by breaking the blockade on Gaza but also by besieging Israel diplomatically, especially in light of the international condemnation [of it] and the Turkish role that is increasingly supportive of the Arab position. The Netanyahu government is facing pressure from the Obama administration that made the peace process a target related to US national security. There is also a current among the Jews in the US and Europe represented by movements like J Street that supports the two-state solution and the revival of the peace process. If this coincided with Palestinian reconciliation that supports the Arab position, the Gaza blockade might turn into a siege on Netanyahu and Israel.