The Easing of the Blockade: Does Mayonnaise Count?

Israel released two contradictory press releases concerning the Gaza blockade. Will it be lifted or not?

[tweetmeme] If Israeli PM Netanyahu were to attempt a political face lift to protect himself from the forces of future historians, a great first move would be to lift the Gaza blockade.  Since, that is apparently impossible, Netanyahu is doing the next best thing.  Reports today seem to confirm was rumored yesterday: largely thanks to Tony Blair, Israel is easing the blockade of the beleaguered strip:

An Israeli government statement, issued after a security cabinet meeting, said “it was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision.”

Israel has said an unrestricted import of cement could lead to Hamas Islamists seizing the material and using it to rebuild military infrastructure. It already allows in limited quantities of construction material for U.N. projects.

Officials in the West Bank are unimpressed by the move by Israel.  Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the move insufficient, saying:

With this decision, Israel attempts to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade and its even longer-standing access and movement restrictions imposed on the population of Gaza. In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians continues unabated.

Erekat continued to declare that anything short of a complete end of the blockade would remain unacceptable: “Either Israel lifts the siege completely or it continues to violate international law and basic morality.”  Hamas, predictably, wants more from Israel as well.  Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the decision to ease the blockade was a ‘trick’ aimed at deceiving the international community.

Interestingly, the reported decision to ease the blockade might never have been made, despite the hoopla concerning the move.  The English version of the press release declaring the decision said, “It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision.”  The Hebrew version of the press release, however, made no mention of any sort of agreement.  From Haaretz:

The Prime Minister’s Office announced on Thursday that the security cabinet had agreed to relax Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, but as it turns out, no binding decision was ever made during the cabinet meeting.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a press release in English following the meeting, which was also sent to foreign diplomats, was substantially different than the Hebrew announcement – according to the English text, a decision was made to ease the blockade, but in the Hebrew text there was no mention of any such decision.

It is not clear whether this discrepancy was a deliberate attempt to buy time in the face of international pressure, or a clerical omission on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office.

So is Israel going to ease the blockade?  Besides for the allowing ketchup and mayonnaise into the strip for the first time, there has not been any immediate changes (I know, its early).  It is possible that the dual press releases are simply a clerical error.  But if Netanyahu is actually buying time by misleading the world, it would pretty much void any argument that the Lukidite PM has plans for returning to the peaceful Netanyahu 2.0.

Photo from Amlalommah

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