Gisha is not alone. Over the last year, a growing number of voices in the Israeli media have called for an end to the closure of the Gaza Strip. The speakers – foremost among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – represent a broad spectrum of opinion in the Israeli public.
Prominent Israeli opinion-makers Dan Margalit, Ofer Shelah and Amos Harel write that the closure harms Israel’s international standing (Hebrew), is “evil” (Hebrew), and even “foolish and ineffectual“. Prof. Shlomo Avineri believes broad agreement can be reached in Israel for a plan that includes lifting the closure. Minister Dan Meridor said (Hebrew) last weekend that the closure of Gaza won’t help weaken Hamas or return Gilad Shalit. Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet and 2007 member of the security cabinet, was also quoted in an article as saying that such pressure on the Gaza Strip was never thought to succeed and was implemented carelessly. The same article includes a call to lift the closure immediately by Prof. Avraham Sela, an expert on Hamas.
From another perspective, Ehud Yaari and Eyal Ofer do not call for an end to the closure policy but describe the dimensions of its failure. They show how throughout the years of closure, Hamas has cultivated an economic empire while the population has suffered increasing unemployment and poverty.
Uri Avnery calls for an opening of the border crossings and construction of sea and airports in Gaza, while Zvi Bar’el predicts that if Israel does not lift the restrictions itself, it will be forced to do so by international powers as part of their anticipated recognition of a Palestinian state. Who said there is no consensus about the need to lift the closure?
And what about the prime minister? According to Netanyahu, the closure had already been eased prior to June 2010, and he even boasted that this harmed Hamas propaganda. In an interview he gave at the time, Netanyahu said (Hebrew) that “ahead of the flotilla and even after the flotilla, [the closure] should have simply been lifted”. Ahead of the next expected flotilla, Netanyahu ought to simply lift the three sweeping restrictions that remain intact on the import of building materials, export and travel of people between Gaza and the West Bank.