In the wake of international furor over Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the country has announced it will ease its blockade on Gaza. The announcement comes after weeks of international attention on the blockade, which has the stated aim of disarming Hamas and halting the groups' missile strikes, but which also includes such provisions as banning margarine and blocking the rebuilding of schools and hospitals. Israel will allow more goods to be brought into Gaza by land but will still block all naval traffic.
- What Is and Isn't Changing The New York Times' Isabel Kershner reports, "The announcement said the easing would apply primarily to the importation of goods for projects under international supervision. But it did not offer a retreat in the restrictions on the passage of people in and out of Gaza, on exports, or on the importation of raw materials for the enclave’s largely paralyzed industries. The statement also said security checks would remain in place to prevent what it called weapons and war materiel from reaching Gaza."
- International Wrangling for Gaza Deal The Washington Post's Janine Zacharia writes, "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 goal has been to find ways to allow more products into Gaza and to establish new mechanisms for monitoring the goods' import, perhaps by outside parties, as part of an effort to avoid further clashes with aid flotillas at sea. Reports that Israeli foes such as Iran and Lebanon, as well as Turkey, might send additional aid ships to Gaza lent urgency to the Israeli discussions and created the specter of another confrontation if the Gaza policy was not amended soon."
- U.S. Selling Out Israel? The New York Post's Benny Avni asks, "Is the Obama administration going to let the United Nations launch a biased investigation of the Turkish flotilla incident? The US has rightly stuck by Israel on the issue so far -- but UN diplomats say they expect that to change." Avni says any international investigation of the flotilla raid would be biased against Israel. "Our diplomats must explicitly tell [UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon] that his plan is unacceptable, and tell other UN bodies that our financial and diplomatic support would be removed if Israel's isolation is the only cause they care about. It's time to stop playing nice and remind Turtle Bay who's the boss."
- How Flotilla Raid Is Reshaping Policy Middle East blogger Gregg Carlstrom suggests "stepping back and thinking about how the flotilla incident has reshaped the politics of the region. My initial take -- bearing in mind that it's too early to predict long-term consequences -- is that the Israeli attack has mostly accelerated existing political trends, rather than creating new ones." He walks through the many aftereffects of the raid, concluding, "I'm sure the White House pressured Israel to ease the Gaza blockade, and that is an important end for the administration (though we shouldn't overstate its importance until we see how Israel actually implements this easing-not-lifting of the blockade). But its tepid response did not win it any points in the Arab world."
- Israel's Tough Goals The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg lists the overlapping tasks for Israel's leadership that make this "among the most challenging in Israeli history."
Stopping Israel from committing grievous, unforced errors of the sort we saw with the Turkish flotilla, despite the rising number of provocations emanating from the Hamas-friendly movement that seeks to delegitimize the idea of a Jewish state; continuing to pressure the world to confront Iran and its existential threat to Israel, so that he doesn't have to do it by himself; creating a better life for Palestinians on the West Bank, all the while knowing that he will not be able to give them what they say they want; figuring a way out of the Gaza blockade morass that does not wind up rewarding Hamas; and all the while maintaining good relations with an American administration that wants Israel to do things right now that it can't do.