Israel rethinks it?

The news last month that Israel had decided to ease its punishing blockade of Gaza was welcome for many reasons. First and foremost, if carried out with sincerity, it will mean some relief of the tremendous suffering the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza have been experiencing since the Israeli invasion of January 2009.

Second, the decision suggests that Israel is beginning to realize that its approach to Gaza and the ruling Hamas faction has been counterproductive, relying on force when more subtle measures are needed. The attack a month ago on a relief flotilla that killed nine people, most of them from Turkey, has done lasting damage to Israel’s relationship with that country, formerly its best and most important Middle Eastern ally. Israel finally seems to understand that it cannot afford to follow such a self-destructive path. The blockade has accomplished nothing, except to make life miserable for Gazans.

Israel is clearly justified in attempting to stop the smuggling of weapons and war-supporting material into Gaza, but that is as far as it goes.

Israel was once known for the creativity of its foreign policy, but lately its tendency to lash out with force is self-defeating. It’s an understandable proclivity, given the threats Israel has historically faced, but it isn’t working to make anyone safer. That can only happen when the country becomes serious about freezing settlements and adopting the two-state solution.