After Israel’s flotilla fiasco, Egypt opens the Gaza border to avert an intifada
What would be the next diastrous step in the Middle East, following yesterday’s ambush by the Israeli military against a civilian aid convoy? Clearly, a new intifada – a Palestinian uprising adding to the bloodshed.
Thus it was a wise move by the Egyptian government this morning to defuse the time bomb of Palestinian anger by opening the Rafah gate – the only gate it controls – to allow some of Gaza’s 1 1/2 million civilians to escape their collective punishment for the actions of the ruling Hamas party. Though Egypt hasn’t said how long it will keep the Rafah border open, its opening is the escape valve that could help prevent another intifada.
Other smart moves have come from the United States, where experts understand the full import Israel’s killing of nine civilians.
Taking a cue from President Barack Obama’s restrained reaction to the shootings on a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza strip, the smartest U.S. commentators are focusing on the root causes: the continued occupation of Palestinian lands since the 1967 war, and the failure of Western nations to secure a two-state solution to achieve peace between Israel and its neighbors.
The Washington Post – whose editorial team is hawkish on Israel whether the ruling coalition in Tel Aviv is peaceful or virulently racist (as it is currently) – jumped way ahead this time to the core issue:
As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state. A good start would be easing restrictions on both Gaza and the West Bank, once the reactions to Monday’s events subside. Mr. Netanyahu also needs to broaden his government to include pro-peace parties; one of his main problems is cabinet hawks who have made Israeli diplomacy an oxymoron. The prime minister is in a deepening hole; his only way out is to move to the center.
In Israel meanwhile, military experts reacted with anger to the poor command-and-control inherent in the pre-dawn mounting of a ship in a manner that instantly put individual commandos at risk. The incompetent leadership helped create “a Palestinian Exodus,” noted one expert.
There were certainly some wrongheaded reactions: The Maariv newspaper called for the resignation of Ehud Barak. Yes he’s the Defense Minister, but he’s certainly not in control of Israel’s military, which is increasingly dominated by extremists who see their mission as a holy war against their Arab neighbors. Barak’s resignation would be a greater disaster than the Gaza flotilla killings, as he is one of the few pro-peace-process members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s seven-member cabinet.
The most astute comment came from Meir Dagan, the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency – which was recently embarassed by its alleged assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai:
“Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden,” said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The next step for the Netanyahu government is very clear: Use this embarrassing international incident to move the peace process forward. Focus your energies on expanding the marvelous economic success of Israel “proper.” Persuade those anti-Arab American billionaires who fund the settlement movement in the occupied Palestinian territories to build housing in Israel for a change. Be the Start-Up Nation that just earned Israel membership in the prestigious OECD.
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