In the framework of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, International Relations Commissioner of Fatah Dr. Nabeel Shaath developed some important reflections. The new proposals came out as a result of the brutal Israeli raid on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to a battered and besieged Gaza population. The Israeli military operation in international waters which led to the killing of nine Turkish citizens and the wounding of tens of international peace activists provoked worldwide condemnation.
During the economic Conference of Bethlehem on June 5, Dr. Shaath gave way to some of his ideas which fluctuated between opening the crossings with Egypt and the opening of a direct maritime passage from Turkey to Gaza port. The ideas foresaw the return of the European observers to the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the redeployment of President Abbas Presidential guards. In his statements Dr. Shaath said that “some people abroad believed that keeping Gaza under siege will weaken Hamas and lead to its down fall, but this is not true”, he said.
“The siege has led but to the weakening of the Gaza people, and the Gaza economy”. However, Hamas is still there and it has its own resources. Therefore we have to develop proposals to help lifting the siege and present it to all concerned parties. Following are some excerpts of his statements:
The first point raised by Shaath is to address Israel’s security fears. “Such fears could be eliminated through the opening of a direct maritime passage from the port of Izmir or Antalya to Gaza port”, he said. Substitute ports such as Limassol or El Arish could play the same role. He also added that despite the current misunderstanding with Israel on the Flotilla, Turkey is a member of the NATO and entertains large scale cooperation relations with Israel.
Turkey enjoys as well the confidence of Hamas and the Palestinians in general. This will enable Turkey with International observers to conduct a full search of the cargo before its loading on the ships and before its sailing into the sea in the direction of Gaza port”.
The search should be conducted to reassure International Community that the shipments are weapon free.
The second point has to include the return of European observers to the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Dr. Shaath said, “Europeans are always ready to return as observers on the Rafah Crossing.
”However this needs a serious US pressure on the Israeli side.
“In my opinion and during my last visit to the Gaza Strip, I heard Mr. Ismael Haniyyeh and other Hamas leaders present at a lunch in Haniyyeh’s house welcoming the return of the Palestinian Authority officials with the presidential guards to the crossings to perform their duties of search and verification measures. He also added that Haniyyeh told me in a clear way:
“Let the PA employees of the crossing return with their stamps and the papers to perform their work and with them the presidential Guard “.
EU observers were observing the crossing of Rafah before the takeover of Hamas on the Gaza Strip. Such arrangements were taken in the framework of an International agreement under US guardianship in 2005.
The third point in Shaath proposal is the creation of stations for the Palestinian Authority on the Egyptian side similar to the US crossings in Canada and Ireland, or to the British station in Brussels. He clarified by saying that in the airports of Canada and Ireland passengers get in the American station, they present their passports and gets stamped and then they travel to the US as if he is in an internal trip.
Dr. Shaath said also that in order not to confine the arrangements on the Arab side and in order not to make it appear as if it is an Arab –Arab conflict the arrangements should be extended to the Israeli side. Israel as an occupation force is responsible for the opening of the Gaza crossings in conformity with the International law and the roadmap agreement. That is why the borders with Gaza should be opened on the Israeli side. The crossings should be opened on the borders with the Israeli side as was the case before the year 2000, before the Jerusalem Intifada.
Once again we should study the possibility of opening the safe passage between Tarqoyumia and Erez or Karni crossings to maintain the link between the West Bank and the Gaza strip in conformity with previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before 2000.
Moreover, Israel should lift the ban imposed on the Gazans residing in the West Bank and refrain from illegally deporting them to Gaza or Jordan.
All such arrangements should go in parallel with the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Palestinian authority.
Concerning the Israeli hegemony on the Gaza Regional Waters and after the confirmation of the ship cargo and its clearance from prohibited goods and weaponry the Israeli side has to abide by the International Law pertaining to the respect of Gaza regional waters and lift the illegal siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.
Laporan dari Kedutaan Palestin.