Why Israel should rethink closure policy
November 20th, 2012
06:54 PM ET

Why Israel should rethink closure policy

By Matthew Duss, Special to CNN

Matthew Duss is a policy analyst and director of Middle East Progress at the Center for American Progress. The views expressed are his own.

As rumors of a possible Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas spread, it’s important to understand the reality of life in Gaza that forms the background of the current round of fighting, and the policy changes that must be made in the hopes of preventing yet another round in the future. Specifically, Israel and the United States should support Egypt as it works with Gaza’s Hamas government to end the rocket attack against Israel, but also find a mutually agreeable formula for ending the isolation of Gaza from the neighboring region.

Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip since 1967, when it took control from Egypt in the 1967 War. Security around Gaza was considerably tightened during the Second Intifada, which saw multiple suicide terror attacks by Hamas against civilians inside Israel. In response to Hamas’ abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006, and further in response to the breakdown of the Palestinian unity government and the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, Israel enacted a strict blockade against Gaza, with the support of both the U.S. and Egyptian governments. As Dov Wiesglass, an adviser to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, described it, “The idea [was] to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” in order to put pressure on the Hamas government.

In addition to limiting the transfer of goods, the closure policy also severely limits the movement of Palestinians themselves between the two Palestinian territories. As the Israeli human rights group Gisha reports, this accords with the Israeli government’s “separation policy,” which is expressly designed to exacerbate the division between Gaza and the West Bank as political units, and between the two factions, Hamas and Fatah, that control them.

More from GPS: Why land for peace is dead

In 2010, Israel began to ease its closure, though it still maintains strict controls on the entrance of construction materials, as an almost complete ban on exports, which severely constrains economic development in the territory. Currently, some 70 percent of Gazans are reliant on humanitarian aid.

The past years have also seen the development of a vast network of smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border whose growth and profitability have been facilitated by the continued closure.  In addition to serving as a major tax revenue source for the Hamas government, these tunnels also provide a major thruway for precisely those weapons that Hamas and other militant groups have been firing against Israel over the past week.

It’s important to understand that increasing legitimate import and export traffic would draw profits away from the smugglers, thus denying Hamas a significant source of revenue. Significantly easing the closure would also remove a convenient excuse that Hamas has used to draw attention away from its own considerable governing failures, and force it to attend to Gaza’s people’s needs, and explain to them why its attacks have failed to bring a resolution to the conflict, rather than simply railing against the Israeli siege.

More from CNN: Can this be last Gaza war?

To be clear, Hamas bears the responsibility to prevent rocket attacks on Israel, and Israel has the right to protect itself from threats emanating from Gaza. But it’s time to recognize that the Gaza closure policy has not served this purpose, any more than Hamas’ rockets genuinely advance the Palestinian national cause.

Hamas will surely claim any easing of the closure policy as their victory, just as they did when more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. But this isn’t reason enough not to change a policy that has utterly failed.

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Topics: Israel • Middle East

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Fred


    November 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  2. paul collier

    anti-semitic racism- you are asking Israel to cede control to a territory run by bloodthirsty murderes who want to kill israel and all the jews it can- the people of gaza are in the predicament they are in because they CHOSE this bloodthirsty band of homicidal psychotics to govern them- they send their sons and daughters on suicide missions- they make cartoons glorifying suicide missions- they execute people on the spot, their own people, for even being suspected of being an israeli spy and your organization shamelessly defends these haters because progressivism is at its core a racist, anti-semitic ideology that hates anyone or anything they even suspect of being remotely connected to God- their godlessness cannot stand anything that is even remotely connected to godliness- it is a cancer and you are the infector!

    November 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • Michael Vasser

      Paul – it is shocking that your response to such a measured article would be to immediately scream "anti-semite!" It is because of such blind declarations that one cannot engage in a balanced discourse on this issue. It is fraught with rhetoric, hyperbole and emotionalism! What's even more troubling is that your diatribe on the Palestinian people strongly suggests that they have brought the suffering and killing on themselves. This is repugnant and you should be ashamed of yourself! This is a humanitarian crisis that must put the well being of civilians, particularly the children (!), above all else and strive to find a solution that brings an end to the terror unleashed on Israeli AND Palestinian civilians alike.

      November 21, 2012 at 5:26 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        MIchael... The ONLY possible solution of the crisis is a PEACE AGREEMENT. Peace agreement can only be achieved by PEACE NEGOTIATIONS. Israel has recognized the right of all Arab states (including the still non-existing Palestinian state) to exist in peace since 1948. Palestinians and other Arabs (with the exception of Egypt and Jordan) still did not accept the right of Israel to EXIST. Within ANY borders. This makes it painfully obvious that as long as the Palestinians are UNABLE AND UNWILLING to stop violence, recognize Israel and ask for peace negotiations there will be no negotiations, no peace and no Palestinian state.

        November 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  3. Edward

    I need to know,
    Are CNN and Wolf and the whole press of CNN playing a game of ‘THORNES’?

    The fact that before any missiles were launched from Gaza, Big Ben, announced that construction will continue in the West Bank.

    I personally do not respect Hamas because they state that the lives of Jews or any other living being called humans should be wiped from the face of the earth is primitive and a reflection of FEAR (FIGHT OR FLIGHT).
    In this year of 2012 you would think that mankind would have moved beyond that type of thinking of another human beings life is not a precious one.
    I also think that the Israelis leaders are also to blame in the conquest of domination of territory is wrong, whether it be that of religious or superiority.

    CNN does not report that weeks before any missiles were fired; Big Ben ordered the continuation of construction of land grabbing policies that he knew would end in a conflict.



    November 21, 2012 at 1:49 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Can you explain the reasons (except for racism, of course) you believe that the JEWS should not be allowed to live in the West Bank but the ARABS should?

      November 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Israel would indeed benefit from a unified Palestinian government, should the Fatah and Hamas join forces. Hence it's important to lift the Gaza blockade and let the two parties unite. As long as there's unanimity among the Palestinian leaders, there will be no prospect of a two-state solution and an end to the conflict.

    November 21, 2012 at 7:37 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Lifting the blockade (or REWARDING the Palestinians in any other way) in response to terrorism will only prove that terrorism works and that more terrorism will work even better. Therefore, REWARDING the Palestinians in response to terrorism is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. On the other hand making the blockade even tighter after each spike in terrorst activities would make even the dumbest Palestinian to realize that TERRORISM is counterproductive.

      November 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
    • rirdan

      As long as the Palestinians categorically refuse to accept the Jewish State in any borders, what is there to talk about or negotiate?

      November 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  5. messenger of the real God

    We look to much for man to create a new for the pepl when its reeally God who we should look too for all things that 4e happening in this world today is the fact that %od already toold us that it would, for the governments that are controling the mishaps God has something in store fr this demise that will come upon the human race in due time we need to be prepared cause man is going too do just what was said man would do for centuris of our life now,,, all I can do is pray that mankind would come to there sinces and let the pepl have there peace ;4 all this come to a head and no matter what its going to happen, I just wish that mankind would put the effort forth to try to work all things out peacefully look at our future of children who have to face this all the time,,, is there an answer? Yes but we have to be in complete comtrol of our feelings in order to stay strong in God and keep ddoiing His will,,, to all Gods pepl around the world who believe truthfully;,,, it will all be over with soon so stay steadfast and rooted and grounded in His workalways keep the faith and let God guide your path and your judgement,,, we still have work to do.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  6. messeger of the true God of the Bible

    God is our creator: now if we as a pepl don't understand what has been presented to us the its just water on the brain, why are we so ignorant as a vessel of God do God so wrong, you ask we delliever,,, the human race no matter where we are brought this on us ourselves all things that God said would happen are happening and we sit back like we don't know what's going on,,, we are in debt with God not our fellow man and for thoughs who this affect you know what is next don't no one have to tell you if you have the understading to know what is getting ready to happen, don't sit living high on the hog and don't know what this really is about,,, how dumb no matter how smart we think we are we are really dumb, its not like you're trying to give us the best life we could posibly ask foor, the True God is on His way,,, I rest my case.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  7. Al Neuman

    Hard to take anything this guy Duss says about the Mideast seriously, given his affiliation with the "Center for American Progress"–another Soros-funded way Leftist outfit with a nasty history of antiSemitism.
    How these progressives relentlessly criticize democratic little Israel, while supporting the brutal murderous terror-loving Islamists who brutalize women, gays and non-Muslims, is one of the most bizarre political alliances i've ever seen.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply

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