“Today, the United States welcomes the new policy towards Gaza announced by the Government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community. Once implemented, we believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons,” the White House press secretary’s office said in a statement released on Sunday morning.
And what, one might wonder, is the substance of the new policy that Washington is so swift to praise? This is what an Israeli official told Haaretz: “we will allow the entry of food items, house wares, writing implements, mattresses and toys. Beyond that, we have not said a thing.” The Los Angeles Times notes: “the government has yet to specify what items will be banned or when the changes will take effect.”
The Guardian says:
Aid agencies have cautioned that concrete implementation of any relaxation of the siege could be hampered by Israeli foot-dragging. “The siege must be ended, not just eased,” said UN spokesman Chris Gunness. “Otherwise Israel continues to be in breach of international law.”
Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation, said in a statement: “A policy consistent with international law would allow free passage of raw materials into Gaza, export of finished goods, and the travel of persons not just for ‘humanitarian’ reasons but also for work, study, and family unity – subject only to reasonable security checks.”
Ziad al-Zaza, a Hamas cabinet minister, called the Israeli move a “deception”. The blockade must be lifted completely “to allow Gaza to import all necessary materials, particularly cement, iron, raw materials for industry and agriculture, as well as import and export between Gaza and the world”, he said.
Meanwhile, if Israel is adopting a more liberal approach to Gaza, this wasn’t evident on Saturday.
German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel was denied entry into the Gaza Strip during his current visit to Israel, German officials said Saturday evening.
A ministry spokesman said talks had continued to the last moment with Israeli officials over Niebel’s aim to visit the Palestinian areas.
Niebel, who arrived in Israel earlier Saturday, had hoped to visit a sewage treatment plant being financed with German development aid.
Speaking on the second German TV network ZDF program”heute” (today) Saturday evening, Niebel expressed his anger about being denied entry.
“I would have wished for a clear political signal would be sent for an opening and for transparency,” said Niebel, of Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
“Sometimes the Israeli government does not make it easy for its friends to explain why it behaves the way it does,” he added.
Niebel said that Israel’s latest announcement on easing the Gaza blockade was “not sufficient” and that Israel must “now deliver” on its pledge.
Beyond that, the government in Jerusalem should be “clear about how Israel, within an international context, wants to cooperate with its friends in the future as well,” the German minister said.
The United States has no fear of meeting a similar rebuff. As far as one can tell, George Mitchell has no interest in visiting Gaza.