Monday, January 21, 2008

Faraway strip of which we know nothing

AFP/Said Khatib

Amid several candidates for the honour, the most insidious aspect of George Bush's Middle East visit was his clear nod to Israel -- and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank -- that he was dumping the Gaza strip overboard as an object of his peace efforts:

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, Gaza is a tough situation. I don't know whether you can solve it in a year, or not ... There is a competing vision taking place in Gaza. And in my judgment, Hamas, which I felt ran on a campaign of, we're going to improve your lives through better education and better health, have delivered nothing but misery ... And there's going to be -- there will be no better difference, a clear difference, than the vision of Hamas in Gaza and the vision of the President and the Prime Minister and his team based here in Ramallah. And to me, that's how you solve the issue in the long-term. And the definition of long-term, I don't know what it means. I'm not a timetable person -- actually, I am on a timetable -- got 12 months. (Laughter.) ...

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (As translated.) Gaza it is considered a coup by us, we consider it a coup d'etat what happened in Gaza. Now -- we consider it a coup d'etat. (Laughter.) And we deal with Gaza at two levels. The first is that we deal with the people as part of us and we take full responsibility that is necessary towards our people. We spend in Gaza 58 percent of our budget. This is not to -- it is our duty towards our people that we provide them with all the need.

Thus Israel and the West Bank authorities were told to keep working on their own track and let Gaza sort itself out, whatever that means.

Among the things it means is the current fuel blockade, which imposes a punishment on civilians. Israel has a two part strategy of noting the problems with rocket fire while claiming that it hasn't cut off its direct electricity supplies to the strip, which is true. But the directly supplied electricity is irrelevant to many in Gaza because they are not connected to the electricity network (which in some cases has been damaged by air raids). If you're relying on your own water pump or diesel generator, the state of power lines to which you're not connected is irrelevant.

Of course Israel's strategy shouldn't be a surprise and they may yet work out some kind of compromise to let monitored fuel supplies back in. The bigger disgraces are Bush's attempt to peddle himself as someone who cares about the Palestinian people -- and the pathetic crew thereof in Ramallah who in effect signed off on this stunt knowing full well what it would mean for Gaza.

UPDATE: Here's a good example from The Corner of the propagation of the Israeli spin which never mentions the key issue of the electricity grid. Meanwhile, Israel has allowed a slight relaxation of the blockade.

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