Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Mid-East powderkeg? Israel tightens, not loosens, blockade as warships create possibility of attack
by Larry Geller
There are at least twelve US warships and at least one Israeli warship lurking in the Red Sea as an Iranian Iranian Red Crescent ship prepares to sail to Gaza to break the illegal blockade. The armada includes one US aircraft carrier (the Harry Truman). Three Israeli nuclear-armed subs are also believed to be operating off the coast of Iran. Should there be a clash, it could be an act of war. The Red Crescent is the equivalent of the Red Cross and is expected to carry only around 10 volunteers and humanitarian aid.
Iran said Tuesday it would send a blockade-busting ship carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza, fueling concern in Israel, where commandos were training for another possible confrontation at sea.
Israel warned archenemy Iran to drop the plan. The Iranian announcement came days after Israel eased its three-year-old blockade of Gaza under international pressure following its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last month. [AP, Iran to send blockade-busting ship to Gaza, 6/22/2010 ]
The AP story (and most coverage within the USA) is apparently wrong, unfortunately.
The Prime Minister's Office announced on Thursday that the security cabinet had agreed to relax Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, but as it turns out, no binding decision was ever made during the cabinet meeting.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a press release in English following the meeting, which was also sent to foreign diplomats, 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. [Haartz, Israel announces let-up to Gaza siege - but only in English, 6/17/2010]
It appears, from other reports, that there may be some easing, but it needs to be more than toothpaste. Building materials and parts necessary to re-build Gaza’s bombed-out infrastructure are apparently still not to be allowed. No one, in the tightly-packed enclave of 1.7 million people is allowed to leave, and exports, which could provide badly needed income, not permitted.
Regardless, Israel has made one more change in the blockade that could point the way to a military confrontation with Iran—it has re-characterized the blockade as military rather than civilian.
By changing it from a "civilian" blockade to a "military" one, in one stroke Israel pacified the international community and gained their approval (or at least a nod) for its continuing policy in Gaza.
The naval blockade is still in place, exports are not allowed so the economy cannot recover, people are still trapped by air land and sea and Gazans are still 100 per cent reliant on Israel to survive. The new "military" blockade looks an awful lot like the old one, and it's the "civilians" that bare the brunt of the siege, whatever name it goes by. [Al Jazeera, Pasta yes, people no, 6/21/2010]
Should the Iranian ship advance towards Gaza, it will presumably be allowed through the Suez Canal. The question is how and where the Israeli and American armada will confront the ship.
So far, the world appears to be indifferent to what could be a deadly clash, one that both Israel and the US may have been scratching their heads on how to accomplish for some time. A peaceful Iranian relief ship may give them their first opportunity.