Don’t Choke Off Gaza

Don’t Choke Off Gaza

WASHINGTON TIMES 01/22/08
By Michael Shank

In mollifying international criticism of border closings, Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror claimed that “sufficient stocks of food” existed for Gazans and that “no one would go hungry” (“Israeli air force strikes empty Hamas offices,” World, Saturday).

Mr. Dror speaks not of Gaza. With 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents living on less than $2 a day, “going hungry” has become a national pastime. Also, with 85 percent of Gaza’s industry folded or functioning at 20 percent, crippled by the international boycott, few could afford “sufficient stocks” even with open borders.

Strangling Gaza is not sound foreign policy. Civilian casualties will only further accumulate – adding to the 100-plus Gazans killed since November’s Annapolis peace talks – long before Hamas, Israel or the United States capitulates from this stubborn and sadly sadistic stare-down.

All this because the United States and Israel maintain a foreign policy protocol of no dialogue with adversaries. Even Hamas’ recent cease-fire offer was roundly rejected.

The wiser in Washington smartly suggest dialogue without impassable preconditions; at least that way, Hamas can be held accountable. Now, no motivation exists for Hamas to do what is desired of it. Nor is Gaza’s populace turning against its elected leaders as the United States once hoped.

Economic chokeholds and political isolation are not working to goad Gaza toward compliance. Nor are they humane. It is time to stop starving Gaza and start saving it.

MICHAEL SHANK

Government relations adviser
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University
Arlington