I call for the United States to break the Gaza blockade, provide immediate humanitarian aid, and urge Special Envoy Mitchell to visit Gaza. In thepast year I have been to Gaza three times and was the first US Government official to visit Gaza after the Israeli Cast Lead operation. I recently visited Gaza for two days to assess aid shipments and humanitarian conditions.
These are the facts:
There is an Israeli blockade around Gaza, on land and along the coast. This blockade was established so that contraband weapons and equipment used for rockets to shell Israel will not enter Gaza. While there are food stuffs entering Gaza, the shipments are tightly controlled and items such as tomato paste and pasta are sometimes restricted by the Israelis. Palestinians cannot rebuild their homes, their schools, or their hospitals because they cannot import the cement needed to complete the projects. They cannot build sewage systems and prevent 55 million metric meters of sewage flow into the Mediterranean because the Israelis limit the amount of construction materials into Gaza.
A tunnel system has developed in South Gaza which circumvents the Israeli blockade. This system is creating a new power base in the society which is based on criminal activity and not the rule of law. Hamas is reaping the benefits and is becoming more powerful. President Obama's June 2009 Cairo address, Secretary of State Clinton's numerous statements, and the international community's promises have all pledged to help the Palestinians. What I have concluded on my recent visit is that those pledges have not materialized and the Palestinian people have little hope for the future. One year after the bombing stopped, and five years after the wall was erected around Gaza, the people have little hope in the future. This lack of hope will eventually foment into radicalization. Radicalization will breed terrorists which will threaten the security of not only Israel but also the United States. We need to reverse this spiral of despair.
Here is what I propose:
Special envoy Mitchell should visit Gaza to determine first hand humanitarian needs. The blockade should be circumvented by the United States; much like we did when we circumvented the Berlin Blockade. We would accomplish this using roll-on/off ships supplying the needed material for Palestinians to rebuild their society. We must find a just and lasting peace not only with words, but actions. This will provide the people of Gaza hope and fulfill the commitment made by President Obama.