The United Nations said Friday that groups seeking to deliver aid to Gaza should do so by land, after Israel warned it would intercept two ships seeking to break a blockade of the Palestinian enclave.This is especially notable since UNRWA's head John Ging said the exact opposite only two months ago:
"There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing.
"Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," he added.
He made the comments after Israel served notice its forces would prevent a planned Lebanese aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.
"We have received information in recent days about a plan to send a new flotilla to break the blockade around Gaza," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Israeli television.
"This is an unnecessary provocation and we believe that preventing such a flotilla is the responsibility of the Lebanese government."
"If this flotilla does leave Lebanon and refuses to be led by our navy to the (Israeli) port of Ashdod, we will have no other choice than to arrest it at sea," the minister added.
"There exists a way of transferring goods, which are not weapons or material for war-like purposes, to the Gaza Strip through the port of Ashdod."
Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev earlier delivered a similar warning in a letter addressed to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Ging, speaking with a Norwegian newspaper earlier in the week, urged the world to send ships to the shores of Gaza, saying "We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible."Hamas, of course, says this this is proof that the UN is Zionist:
Hamas has said the United Nations call for aid groups to send supplies to the Gaza strip over-land rather than by sea amounts to "collaboration with the Israeli occupier".This last part is especially humorous because the people who restrict Gazans from leaving Gaza are often Palestinian Arabs themselves, as Ha'aretz noticed today. Belatedly.
"The UN call to international organisations to use the over-land road to Gaza instead of the sea is unacceptable and illegal," Sami Abu Zahri, a Hamas spokesman, said on Saturday.
Hamas, which is not participating in proximity talks, said that most Gaza residents "are still banned from leaving the territory and this is why this call [by the UN] is considered a contribution to the [Israeli] blockade".
Israel may be slowly learning a lesson that her Arab neighbors have known for a long time: there is great diplomatic power in saying no. When one side in a dispute is adamant and the other is wishy-washy, diplomats will naturally pressure the side that appears to be wavering. Israel is saying very clearly that if the point of the "aid" is to help Gazans, they will help. If the point is political, it will be stopped. The UN will try to avoid supporting a plan that will force a showdown - as long as there is an alternative.