Skip to content

Gaza Blockade: Shin Bet 1 – Netanyahu Government 0

June 17, 2010

Yuval Diskin, the director of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee June 15,

I don’t have any problem with easing the transfer of goods [to Gaza] from Israel.

The top Israeli official responsible for internal security has no problem with opening the Israel-Gaza crossing points to ease the blockade and allow more goods to flow into Gaza? That’s right. It should not come as a surprise. The land blockade has never been about enhancing Israeli security. In fact, the blockade has permitted Hamas to rearm by making the tunnels indispensable to supply Gaza’s 1.4 million people and therefore politically impossible for Egypt to shut down. The way to enhance Israeli security is to open the Israel-Gaza border crossings to the free movement of people and goods, subject to Israeli inspection, as before, and to shut down the Egypt-Gaza tunnels that allow anything and everything to enter without hindrance. On the security issue at least (though he denies there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza) the head of the Shin Bet gets it.

The Netanyahu government hasn’t gotten it so far, or doesn’t want to get it, though. Ha’aretz reported today that the prime minister’s office announced, in English, in a statement that was distributed to the foreign press and to diplomats, that Israel’s security cabinet had decided to relax the Gaza blockade,

but as it turns out, no binding decision was ever made during the cabinet meeting…

The English press release, Ha’aretz said,

was substantially different than the Hebrew announcement – according to the English text, a decision was made to ease the blockade, but in the Hebrew text there was no mention of any such decision.

The Netanyahu government should listen to its security professionals and drop the pretext that the Gaza blockade is needed for Israel’s security. Then Israel could open the borders to end Gaza’s suffering and its own growing international isolation. Failing to follow the real security imperative will only prolong a tragedy.

Operation Cast Lead: Shin Bet 10 – Olmert Government 0

An even greater tragedy could have been avoided if the previous Israeli government of Ehud Olmert had listened to the advice of its security professionals in December 2008 and extended the ceasefire with Hamas. Once again, the hero was Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin. As an almost totally effective five-month ceasefire deteriorated after a fatal Israeli bombing raid, Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee December 21, 2008 that Hamas wanted to extend its truce with Israel and sought “to improve its conditions – a removal of the blockade, receiving a commitment from Israel that it won’t attack and extending the lull [tahadiya] to the Judea and Samaria area.” But the Olmert government refused to remove, or even significantly ease, its Gaza blockade and instead launched Operation Cast Lead, with catastrophic results for Gazans and Israel’s international reputation.

The real security imperative in December 2008 was to extend the Hamas-Israel ceasefire. That’s still the security imperative today, to lift the blockade, negotiate a formal ceasefire, including a prisoner exchange that frees Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit, and move on to the greater security imperative of a negotiated Israel-Palestine peace agreement.  The U.S. can make it happen if it can muster the political courage to push back decisively against the forces that use squirrelly security arguments to prop up an unconscionable  status quo.  The Obama administration, as well as the Netanyahu government, should pay attention to the advice of Yuval Diskin.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: