The cease fire between the Israeli and Palestinian forces seems to be holding . . . for the time being. That is a very good thing, but it is clear that the cease fire itself is not a blue print for a sustainable peace. If there is to be a sustainable peace, and there must be one, then the process must move forward, in the first place by the parties themselves. The more time passes the more likely that hostilities will reemerge.
There are so many tragedies and horrors in this conflict that it is difficult to single out one or even two or three for urgent attention, nevertheless, it is impossible to ignore the fact that this conflict is so costly, so painful, so inhumane for civilians, for non-combatants. The rocket fire, the shelling, the bombs and missiles have stopped for now, but for the people of Gaza, 50% of whom are under the age of 18, 70% percent of whom are women and children and 80% of whom live below the poverty line according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, daily life conditions are intolerable due, in the first place, to the ongoing blockade.
There is an urgent need to lift the blockade, to restore free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt and the sea. As a part of the cease fire Israel did, in fact, agree to an opening of the Gaza crossings and an expansion of the fishing zone. This is the right thing to do for urgent humanitarian reasons but it is also a critical step in moving the peace talks forward. The blockade only feeds and encourages the movement of goods and people via tunnels and other means dominated by military forces while suppressing the growth of normal civilian institutions and activity so critical to democracy and sustainability. The international community can play an important role in facilitating the transparent, expedited, movement of goods and people.
The crushing blockade of Gaza has lasted more than 7 years. Now would be a good time, the right time, to end the blockade.