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What Netanyahu can easily offer Obama on Gaza

Three ‘gestures’ Israel can easily make that will radically improve the lives of at least thousands of Palestinians — all without compromising one inch on its own security concerns.

By Amir Rotem

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (photo: The White House / Flickr)

File photo of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (White House photo)

In the hall of mirrors that is international diplomacy, all is being polished for the Netanyahu-Obama summit. Lists of gifts the two are expected to present each other are being leaked and commented upon. One of the things being said is that, on the advice of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel’s prime minister will offer up a number of gestures to Palestinian residents of both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and lift some restrictions.

We’ve seen this before: defining a certain policy choice as absolutely essential for security and then suddenly, doing a complete 180 and reversing the choice. It will be labeled as a “gesture” instead of a fundamental change and no one will recognize, let alone repent for, the senselessness with which sweeping restrictions had been imposed on the entire population — a simple variation on the chorus, while the song remains the same.

Yet actual, radical change is exactly what’s called for, particularly with regard to Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians living in Gaza and it’s not as hard as it looks. The key for that change, is reversing the separation Israel insists on, between residents of Gaza and residents of the West Bank. Since the end of Operation Protective Edge one a year ago, Israel’s own top security officials have themselves articulated the need to improve conditions of life in the Strip as an Israeli security necessity. Such improvement is not possible without rehabilitating the economy and allowing Palestinian society to breathe, which itself is not possible without linking Gaza back up with the West Bank. For all these reasons, this particular moment in time presents an historic opportunity to change the momentum. A number of steps could be taken while still considering all necessary security precautions, which will help improve Israel’s international standing, but mostly, significantly improve the quality of life of millions of Palestinians living under its control.

Truly opening up possibilities for trade. Israel claims to be implementing a different policy than the full closure that reigned supreme for seven bad years from 2007– 2014. It boasts of the choice it made in late 2014 and early 2015 to allow Gaza-made and -produced goods to be sold in Gaza’s natural markets, in the West Bank and Israel respectively. But, a litany of restrictions reduces the number and kinds of people who are actually able to trade (a quota of trade permits is distributed based on volume of trade, so out the window go smaller businesses that tend to be run by young people and women) and eat away at the profitability of those who can. How? By limiting the height of produce stacked on platforms thus decreasing the profit earned on every truckload; by restricting the entrance of wood and other construction materials from entering, thus practically destroying the furniture industry and slowing down reconstruction, and by assuming a role in running the Palestinian market based on assessments of gain and probability, just to list a few examples. Gaza’s economy is part of the Palestinian economy, and it could begin to recuperate given the necessary access.

Lifting travel restrictions that have nothing to do with security. Student travel to universities abroad has become a rarity, especially since the Rafah border crossing into Egypt has remained mostly closed. It’s not clear what Israel gains by preventing students from traveling through Israel to Jordan, on their way to their studies abroad. This morning’s news about some 60 students’ late departure for their studies (out of hundreds still stuck in Gaza) points more to the problem than its solution. Palestinians need to travel for both the everyday and the extraordinary reasons most people take for granted: things like conferences and seminars or family visits and reunification are off-limits. The restrictions on family visits between relatives divided between different parts of the Palestinian territory take a heavy, unjustified human toll and can’t be explained by security needs.

Lifting the maritime closure. Gaza’s fishermen have not been able to get to potent fishing grounds for years because of Israeli imposed restrictions on how far they may sail from Gaza’s shoreline. Gaza’s fishing industry provided a source of livelihood for thousands of families. Army officials have acknowledged its importance. In addition to this, allowing a commercial sea port serving Gaza to operate would have an immediate positive effect on export profitability without requiring Israel to compromise on security.

These three suggestions could be trust-building steps on the road that has ostensibly already begun toward finally letting go of the socio-economic warfare that has caused so much suffering to all residents of the region. These steps could be taken regardless of the pace or nature of any diplomatic moves. They could advance stability, which is the foundation for dialogue, but more importantly, they are the right thing to do.

Amir Rotem is the director of Gisha’s public department.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Average American

      No, none of that will be done. Don’t take your eye off Israel’s prime directive (they certainly haven’t). Israel’s founding charter is to expand The Jewish State into all of “The Land Of Israel”. That is a one-state situation. If Palestinians were contiguous, that’s a two-state situation, and will never be what Israel wants. Now why USA supports what Israel wants, I don’t know. It’s certainly not what my government tells me: 1) Christian-Jewish brotherly love across the seas? No, because Jews detest Christians as idolators. 2) The almighty God says so? No, let’s try to keep things in reality here. 3) The shining ark of democracy? No, because both countries use that for nothing more than a front. 4) Stability in the region? No, because Israel is by their founding charter an armed expansionist. I’ll add one more: Oil? Oil in Syria, oil in Iraq, oil in Iran? Use Israel to create destabilization (and let Israel have its way in the bargain) so international oil companies can get better contracts from new regimes (happening now with ISIS in Syria)and control more fields? I think that’s it.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Israel does not want to improve life for Gazans because (1) It could not care less about them, and (2) Israel’s real strategic calculation is to keep Gaza on a low boil and a weakened Hamas in power so it has “the Islamic threat” to point to as an excuse not to make peace, and Hamas as its pet on a leash in Israel’s divide and conquer strategy. Otherwise, the Israeli leadership would actually listen to its top security officials. That it does not listen to its top security officials gives the lie to every right wing occupation-rationalizer who says it’s all about “security.” Israel treats Gazans like lab rats in a cage. Never underestimate the cynicism involved. Amir Rotem’s article is testimony to that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        BEN:”Israel does not want to improve life for Gazans because (1) It could not care less”

        Hey Benny, we care, we do care about them as much as THEY care about US.

        BEN:”and (2) Israel’s real strategic calculation is to keep Gaza on a low boil and a weakened Hamas in power so it has “the Islamic threat” to point to as an excuse not to make peace, and Hamas as its pet on a leash in Israel’s divide and conquer strategy.”

        Too funny. So now we are responsible for the fact that over 50% of the Palestinian Arabs voted for HAMAS in their last democratic election which was held in 2006?

        Another Benny-ism. This guy will say anything to further his crazy one eyed ideology. He is unembarassable.

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        • Gustav

          Having been a regular reader of this publication, I have come to realize that there exists a parallel universe, let’s call it BENNY-WORLD in honor of Benny who obsessively haunts this publication.

          In BENNY-WORLD, one side is obsessively held to account for everything bad that happens. That side is expected to not put a foot wrong. It must always be fair to it’s enemies who expect it to voluntarily die and if they don’t volunteer to die then they are the world’s worst and must be relentlessly vilified.

          In fact, in BENNY-WORLD, Benny’s whipping boys are to blame even for the existence of other entities who even Benny can’t deny that they are villains even though those villains don’t leave a stone unturned to try and kill Benny’s primary whipping boys. But Benny solves his dilamma neatly. He just blames HIS favorite whipping boys for the existence of those other villains. Neat, huh?

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          • Ben

            We’ll just have to disagree. Thanks.

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          • Gustav

            I guess you are on your own side then Benny, eh? A bit like we are on our side.

            But spot the difference. You only resent US for being on our side but not yourself for not taking a good look at yourself and blindly backing yourself. Why don’t you treat yourself the same way as you expect us to treat ourselves? LOL.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            An abiding characteristic of the right wing, the go-to tool in their toolbox, is to pathologize anyone’s interest in Israel-Palestine if that person has a non-right-wing perspective. It is the single most oft-used technique, the single unifying, common theme of all the right wing commentaries here. This is indisputable. So all sorts of hostile ad hominem interpretations are flung at the person. All the while castigating the person for, among other things, “hatred,” these people gush hatred. This by Gustav is the usual. Except this gem—“You only resent US for being on our side but not yourself for not taking a good look at yourself and blindly backing yourself”—makes no more sense after reading it five times than it did the first time. Can you penetrate that? I can’t. That brings us to the other abiding characteristic of the right wing—constant blame externalizing and allied fatuities. So that the recent wave of knifings is blamed only on “incitement” and “bloodlust” and cannot be the result of anything else because then they would have to do something about that “anything else”—which is the occupation. There is a good essay by Bradley Burston in Haaretz on this theme. Burston describes how the occupation makes Israelis stupid. That is, the need to defend the occupation compels intelligent people to say stupid things about “incitement” and “the will to have us exterminated” etc. being the cause of all the trouble and that the relentless settlements and the daily cheating and brutalizing of the Palestinians have nothing to do with it. Since Netanyahu is not stupid you know he’s lying. And lying is something Netanyahu does like you and I breathe. So Netanyahu “is selling an amalgam of evils, slavery, segregation, and apartheid, each one of which seemed permanent in its time,” and “because the occupation does what it does, the Israelis are still buying it.” Now, whenever I have quoted someone like Burston, then, like Pavlov’s dog, Gustav has come back with another (stupid) pathologizing idea: that Burston is my “guru” and I’m “in thrall” to him. Like I said, the go-to tool…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            You are being victimized eh Benny?

            Remind me again about your lecture to us about false victimhood?

            An abiding characteristic of some (the hypocritical ones) on the left is that they can dish it out but they hate to get their own tools thrown back at them. Benny is a prime example.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’ll be happy to remind you. This is false victimhood peddling. Textbook case:

            “Only a deranged racist would run them over his fellow citizens with cars and busses crushing them to death simply because said fellow citizens are of a different race/ethnicity and religion. This is the crime Baleztinians are committing today – as we speak – against Jews simply because they are Jews!! Only a deranged racists would organize teenagers to ambush fast moving cars of their fellow citizens on the road/highway, pelt said cars with rocks and force them to crash killing the occupants (the entire members of the same family: father, mother and infant babies!). This is the crime Baleztinians are committing today – as we speak – against Jews simply because they are Jews!”

            Eis’s interest in Israel-Palestine is not pathological. Her false victimhood peddling is. It’s not pathologizing to say so. If I said her very interest in the subject was pathological and if I said that she must think what she thinks simply because she hates Arabs and is an anti-Arabite, then that would be pathologizing. Glad we cleared that up. Thanks for the opportunity.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Let’s see, Benny…

            Ginger was complaining about Palestinian Arabs randomly running over and stabbing Israeli civilians. That is false victimhood according to you.

            But your complaining about “adhominem attacks” against your “poor little self” even though I just described your jaundiced view on this world as Benny world, that is not false victimhood? Ok Benny, I hear ya…

            …but I don’t agree. You are pleading false victimhood because you are one eyed from the tip of your toes to your eyeball. All one has to do is read your posts. You are the very definition of bias and false indignation. So describing you in such terms is NOT an adhominem attack. It is describing reality. ERGO, your complaint about it smacks of false victimhood.

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          • Ben

            Oh. Let’s be clear. I am not your “victim.” LoL. Don’t put words in my mouth. I was merely delineating a tool. Now if I were prone to whining about victimhood status I would hardly have responded to your harangue above with “We’ll just have to disagree. Thanks.” Would I? You couldn’t leave that alone, however. And here we are.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Yes Benny, let’s leave it at the usual Bennyism.

            You were being victimized but you were not being a victim. You were complaining about it, but you were not complaining. LOL.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            We’ll have to disagree on this. Take it easy.

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          • Gustav

            You want my agreement about agreeing to disagree, Benny? You have it. But you don’t have my agreement with your latest nonsense which you uttered at the beginning of this thread…

            BEN:”Israel does not want to improve life for Gazans because (1) It could not care less about them”

            You are trying to make out that us not caring about Gazans is a major sin. But I disagree. Why should we care about them? They hate us and they show it by their indiscriminate rocketing of our civilians since the year 2000 when they refused to accept our peace offer.

            BEN:”(2) Israel’s real strategic calculation is to keep Gaza on a low boil and a weakened Hamas in power so it has “the Islamic threat” to point to as an excuse not to make peace”

            Yea? Again I disagree with you, Benny-leh but I know that you are stubborn about being stupid, soooooo….

            …. then can we play your game too? Netanyahu is in power because the Palestinian Arabs don’t want to make peace with us and it suits them to point at Netanyahu as an excuse.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Why should we care about them?”

            Oh we’re not talking about sending them candy and flowers. We’re talking about according their civilians basic human rights, ending the occupation of their borders, air space and fishing grounds, and abstaining from war crimes and other atrocities. Little stuff like that.

            “Netanyahu is in power because the Palestinian Arabs don’t want to make peace with us and it suits them to point at Netanyahu as an excuse.”

            See items 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 here:
            http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/11/10/3721243/netanyahu-cap-talk/

            Thanks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”We’re talking about according their civilians basic human rights”

            Yea, we know Benny. We keep on hearing about THEIR human rights while you keep on making excuses why they are allowed to shoot their rockets at our civilians who have human rights too. So long as they persist with that, they prove that they don’t care about the human rights of OUR civilians and since they don’t care about us, we don’t care about them.

            Are you unable to grasp that, Benny? Of course you are able to. You just don’t want to. But hey that’s ok. That’s why we ignore your constant whining about how you want us to behave.

            Oh and Benny, you just sidestepped my point about Netanyahu being in power.

            Your claim is that Hamas is in power in Gaza because of us. That is as valid as if we would claim that Netanyahu is in power because of Palestinian Arab behavior. But if you insist on a stupid claim we can use your stupid lgic to justify a stupid claim too.

            Get it, Benny? Of course you do. You just don’t want to acknowledge it because you are not here to have a sensible discussion. That is not your mission. Your mission is to endlessly demonize and vilify us while whitewashing your pay-masters who allow you to make a decent living out of spewing constant anti Israel propaganda.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Blah blah blah. To me this is an indirect admission that you think “anything goes” and that the clearest, most established principles of international law and the Geneva conventions not to mention principles of common decency simply don’t apply to Israelis. They’re special? You can drop any bomb you want anywhere on Gaza or shoot live ammo at protesters–both before and after egging them on to rock throwing using undercover officers? Shoot em point blank in the thigh while holding them down? And yet have your troops stand by and protect marauding settlers? And make people’s lives miserable every day of their lives at checkpoints…. Because why? Because they’re Arab and you’re not?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And to me, Benny, everything is an admission that you consider that Jewish people have less rights than anyone else. Which of course makes you a racist scumbag, Benny.

            Why do I say that? Because you just gloss over Palestinian Arab agression against Jewish Israeli civilians but you are only scandalized about our response to their behavior.

            And again, your excuse that the “occupation” gives them the right to harm our civilians, is pure unadulturated BS because Palestinian Arab violence against us preceeded the “occupation”. In fact, their war on us CAUSED the occupation. You can deny that till the Messiah comes but your denial is still just prevarication and lies.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Check it out, bud. I’m sure you’ll mine this for the negative not the positive, so no need to get back to us on it, but check it out. A message from “my paymaster.” LoL If *only* I got paid for making fun of you! Life isn’t fair! LoL ==>

            Saudi Prince al-Faisal tells Haaretz: Desire for peace exists both in Gaza and Ramallah
            Prince Turki
 al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s longtime intelligence chief and still an insider, insists that the Arab Peace Initiative can bring Israel acceptance in the region. But the political will has to come from the Jewish state.

            http://www.haaretz.com/peace/1.685313

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Desire for peace, Bud?

            So what’s stopping them? All they have to do is…

            1. Recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people as per UNGA resolution 181 which specifically mentioned the Jewish State. Not that hard, is it?

            2. Agree to land swaps.

            3. Give up their so called right of return demand and solve their own refugee problem same as we solved ours.

            And voila, peace will reign. Nah, they don’t wanna? That’s ok then we know that “their desire for peace” is just misinformation and propaganda in order to sow confusion and strife in our camp. Hey it happens in all wars. But only idiots and haters get confused by such tactics. You are the hater variety Benny.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN’s ITEM 6:”FACT: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formally recognized the State of Israel in 1993 and Palestinian leaders have previously conceded that Israel is, in fact, a home for Jewish people”

            Yet we hear this from Abbas…

            http://m.jpost.com/Middle-East/Abbas-Palestinians-wont-accept-Jewish-state-Islamization-of-struggle-in-Mideast-392910#article=6021NUUwMDhERThGMERCRTQ2Rjg5OTc3MUJCMzhBMDhDRUU=

            “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Wednesday his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state but said the Palestinians are prepared to return to the negotiating table.”

            So what’s there to negotiate, Benny?

            Is it just our misinformation? Ok, that would be easy to counteract. All Abbas has to do is to return to the negotiating table and CONSISTENTLY state that he is willing to sign a peace deal which states that Israel IS the nation state for the Jewish people.

            But what does he do? He plays his usual games, he says this then he says that. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Only haters like you like what Abbas does, Benny.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            A home for Jewish people does not equal Netanyahu’s “Jewish Nation State…Nation State of the Jewish People…The Jewish State.” In Netanyahu’s Jewish State Arab citizens and Arab permanent residents have their rights rooted in the whims of Jewish overlords (see Netanyahu’s latest transfer rhetoric about revoking East Jerusalem residents residency status etc.), in other words, in shifting sands not bedrock. You know this, but you think it’s fine. Most people don’t. Apparently Abu Mazen doesn’t. Whatchya gonna do?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            You can prevaricate all you like Benny but the concept of the Jewish nation state is very simple…

            It is nothing more, nor less than a Jewish majority state. And that in turn means that the Palestinian Arabs have to…

            1. Give up their so called right of return.

            2. That they have to accept that Israel’s immigration policy favors Jewish immigration.

            That is Netanyahu’s concept too, you bare faced lying propagandist.

            But say, for the sake of argument that he deliberately sets out to keep Arab Israelis as second class citizens in other areas. What makes you think that Netanyahu will be our leader forever? And what makes you think that we would stand for such a thing if there would be peace between us and the Palestinian Arabs?

            In any case, it is an academic argument because Abbas does not accept points 1 and 2 above. So what is there to talk about? An Arab Muslim majority state? Do you seriously want to claim that we would not be second class citizens in such a state? That is assuming they would even allow us to stay alive. Yet you seem to have no objections to that option, you hypocrite!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is all layers and layers of bluster and BS. (Heavily seasoned with the cheapest ad hominem attacks–they’re becoming your signature, Gussie.) For people who say they want peace the Israelis sure come up with a lot of reasons not to find peace. No one believes it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            We want peace Benny but not at all cost.

            We don’t let cheap little propagandists like you badger us into “a peace” which will cause us to fight a harder war than the one we already have to fight. But keep on trying to knock your head against the wall, Benny-leh. Who knows, maybe it will break? In any case, Benny, brace yourself, the backlash is on it’s way. Your paymasters are not only evil. They are stupid too, LOL.

            Reply to Comment
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