There is mounting evidence indicating that Israel’s policy toward Gaza is changing. Last week, for the first time since 2007, Israel allowed several hundred Muslims to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The notice (Hebrew) the IDF Spokesperson issued about the gesture also mentioned that agricultural products from Gaza would soon be cleared for sale in the West Bank, also for the first time since 2007. We have received news (Hebrew) about the easing of some travel restrictions, as well as information that entrance of construction materials for the private sector is set to begin this week. These steps could indicate the beginning of more significant and sweeping changes. Even top security officials are talking about how important these measures are for the entire region. We hope (Hebrew) these are but the first steps toward a full reversal of the Gaza closure policy, rather than simply a variation on it.
Meanwhile, this week, we caught a rare glimpse into how the closure policy came about in the first place. Dan Meridor, who served as deputy prime minister and the minister in charge of intelligence affairs in the previous government, spoke about the circumstances behind the policy at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies under the title, “The Lessons of Operation Protective Edge”:
“..[W]hen the Turkish Marmara flotilla was about to arrive, a few ministers got together to discuss it. I asked in that discussion: ‘Why is there a siege?’ The siege has created the feeling that that we [the Israelis] are laying siege to Gaza. They [the Gazans] have nothing to eat […] Why do we need it? I’m not talking about weapons. Seizing weapons is a different story, but a siege? Why is it necessary? After some discussion, the minister of defense [Ehud Barak] candidly said: ‘It’s inertia. At some point, during the Second Lebanon War, there was a decision to separate [Gaza and the West Bank]: things will be good in the West Bank, and not as good in Gaza’”.
“I think that was a big mistake […] We fought hard to prevent each and every ship from coming to shore, while the tunnels were open and weapons came pouring in from the Egyptian side. It sounds like… I don’t want to say what… it doesn’t sound like smart intelligent people”.
Mr. Meridor’s talk is available at (Hebrew): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt_yKsTc4Tk, quote begins at minute 9:45.