Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gravel For Gazans, Step One Of Many

Yesterday, Israel's Defense Ministry confirmed it was easing restrictions on items entering the Gaza Strip.  Almost definitely a result of Israel's cease-fire agreement with Hamas, important construction items including gravel will now be permitted to enter.  

Easing the blockade is a good move by the Government of Israel.  It sends a credible commitment to Hamas, Israel's Arab neighbors, and the international community that it is committed to the terms of the cease-fire agreement.  It is evidence of Israel's aversion to re-igniting tensions with Hamas, at least in the short term. However, most importantly, it is a prime example of the effect of international pressure on Israel's foreign policy.  While Israel is loathe to admit it, international pressure plays a role on the country's foreign policy decision making process - as such pressures do in any state.  Allowing gravel into the Gaza strip not only demonstrates a credible commitment to Hamas.   It also signals a closer alignment with the international community which has expressed concern over the Gaza blockade.  Allowing gravel into the Gaza Strip is of course only one part of a larger blockade whose secondary effects include malnourishment and severe economic difficulties. However, this policy change indicates that policymakers in the Israeli government are smartly taking a wider set of Israeli interests into account.  One can only hope that the resignation of Israel's inept Foreign Minister two weeks ago will further empower these policymakers.

The move also shows that certain restrictions on certain dual-use items are superfluous to Israel's security and incur a disproportionate political cost (as I argued here and here).  The security threat from the Gaza Strip is real, but the relative threat of allowing gravel into the area has not changed between now and November 21st when the cease-fire was signed.  What has changed is Israel's political calculus.  These changes are welcome and will advance the security of the Jewish State.  However, if it takes a near war to achieve such changes in the future, Israel is in for a tough road ahead.  Acting preemptively to change ineffective security policies allows Israel to dictate the pace and terms of these changes rather than being pressured into them by the international community.  Controlling the terms of these changes is the best choice for a secure Israel.

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