Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, hailed Tuesday the Israeli cabinet’s expected approval of a plan to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow more aid into the territory as “a very important step.”While the raid on the Mavi Marmara made Netanyahu the face of the Gaza blockade before the world, with this deal he adroitly steps away:
The plan, which was formulated jointly by Blair and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will likely come before the cabinet for approval on Wednesday.
It contains three main elements: formulation of a blacklist of goods and supplies that will not be allowed into Gaza, particularly items that could be put to use in manufacturing weapons; Israel’s acquiescence to the entry of building materials for UN-sponsored construction projects; and Israel’s agreement to consider stationing European Union as well as Palestinian Authority monitors at border crossings to inspect incoming goods.
At their first meeting, the envoy handed Netanyahu a document prepared by Blair’s staff that included suggestions for easing the blockade. The prime minister told Blair that he never thought the blockade as constituted was particularly wise, as he understood that the civilian population, and not Hamas, bore the primary brunt.
“It’s important for me to have a policy that I can defend before the world,” Netanyahu told Blair.
And with that, one remembers another side to Netanyahu:
After a long career supporting Israeli settlements in occupied land and rejecting Palestinian statehood, Mr. Netanyahu said last June that he accepted the two-state idea. Three weeks ago, he imposed a 10-month freeze on building Jewish housing in the West Bank, something no Israeli leader had done before. Settlers are outraged, and Mr. Netanyahu is facing a rebellion in his party. Together with his removal of many West Bank checkpoints and barriers to Palestinian movement and economic growth, these steps went well beyond what many ever expected of him.May we yet see Netanyahu 2.0?