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Friday June 18, 2010 5:04 PM (EST+7)
International community sceptical about Israel's easing of Gaza blockade

Read more: Gaza blockade, EU foreign policy, US Foreign Policy, Gilad Shalit, Israeli cabinet, Ehud Barak, Barack Obama

RAMALLAH, 18 June, (JMCC) - Israel’s decision to ease the Gaza blockade has received mixed reactions from the international community. US President Barack Obama has welcomed the move as a ‘step in the right direction’ after weeks of pressuring Israel to act on the embargo which he deemed unsustainable.

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 security cabinet said in a statement after the meeting.

The decision does not affect Israel's sea blockade of the coastal strip or its ban on the private import of building materials. Hamas called the Israeli measures media propaganda.

Much of the international community is waiting to see what form these ‘liberations’ take before passing judgment.

Experts said a key question was the meaning of a pledge to expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision. If this means only the UN, the impact will inevitably be limited. The announcement made no mention of a timeline or monitoring of dual use goods by the international community, nor of opening border crossings or permitting exports and the movement of people and aid crucial for the rebuilding a shattered economy.

It is good that Israel is giving serious consideration to resolving these issues, said a British Foreign Office spokesman. But further work is needed. We need to see the additional steps still to be announced. EU officials said they were disappointed by the decision.

Meanwhile Israel continues to issue thorny messages to Arab nations who seek to continue the sailing of aid vessels towards the naval blockade. Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister has warned Lebanon that the flotilla which is set to leave Beirut in coming days will be held to account for any “violent and dangerous confrontation”.

The international community’s condemnation of the blockade runs alongside continuing guardedness against Hamas. Many are concerned that this will present a conflict of interests that may water down its pressure on Israel to further relax the blockade.

The knotty political issue here is that the US, Britain and the EU all insist they want to end an unacceptable and unsustainable blockade but share Israel's goal of seeking to weaken Hamas, which has more or less maintained a de facto ceasefire since last year's war. It still holds the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Read more at The Guardian...
Read more at Haaretz...







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