It is time to build a new policy between Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the people of Gaza and the international community. First a brief history:
Hamas was democratically elected on January 26, 2006. Israel, the United States and a number of allies did not accept Hamas with its existing Charter and record of attacks on Israeli civilians. On June 25, 2006 Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas in a cross-border raid. On June 28, 2006 Israel began a ground offensive in Gaza; Operation Summer Rain. Israel closed all the border crossings with Egypt controlling the Rafah crossing. Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip on June 14, 2007. Rockets continued to be fired by Hamas into S'derot and the Negev even through a temporary lull. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27, 2008, killing more than 1100 Palestinians including many civilians and damaging thousands of homes and factories as well as schools and hospitals.
The Free Gaza Movement has worked to challenge Israel's sea blockade by delivering supplies to the people of Gaza in nine attempts including its May 31, 2010 international flotilla of six ships. The Flotilla led by the Turkish registered Mavi Marmara carrying some 600 passengers was boarded by Israeli commandos who battled with a group of passengers and then proceeded to use deadly force to take control of the ship resulting in nine deaths and dozens of injuries including a number of the commandos.
The path forward must be marked by a series of direct actions, by the international community. The goal of Israel has been to interdict all weapons before entering Gaza, stop rocket fire and armed attacks on Israel from Gaza, and secure the return of Gilad Shalit. These goals can only be met by an international peacekeeping force on the ground that includes naval vessels to stop and check all cargo's destined for Gaza. The ground troops will act to separate the warring parties while insuring that the flow of food, medicine, clothing and building supplies returns to a level commensurate with the actual needs of the 1.5 million population.
Israel will only be convinced to accept such a force if it is granted and utilizes all authority necessary to stop weapons importation unlike the failed UNFIL force in Lebanon. The international community will now finally be interested in negotiating a workable plan to put its boots on the ground because the cost of the blockade in both lives and international hearts and minds is increasing exponentially. This process of transferring responsibility from Israel to an international peacekeeping force must be handled with great care and in full consultation with the Arab League who must both accept this outcome and become actively engaged in the process of delivering goods to the people of Gaza. Hamas and Israel will be assisted in completing an agreement to return Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
In the wake of the Mavi Marmara tragedy and the increasing tension concerning the blockade within the international community it is necessary to design a force to meet the security needs of the State of Israel while freeing the people of Gaza from perpetual victimhood by the warring parties. Hamas will then stand or fall essentially depending on its willingness to change from a militant organization into a political party willing to join with Fatah in the development of a positive and peaceful future for the Palestinian people. Palestinian President Abbas can work with Egypt, the Arab League and members of the Quartet to offer Hamas a vital role in a unity government if Hamas agrees to put down its weapons. The Palestinian government led by its current Prime Minister must continue to make economic and security progress in the West Bank and Israel must acknowledge and respond to this progress by eliminating additional checkpoints and reaching out in tangible ways to meet its neighbor in the American led peace talks. It is time to turn the page and require all nations to support the transformation of the Gaza blockade into an internationally managed system of checks and balances that permits the people of S'derot to sleep safely in their beds and the people of Gaza to begin to live as free human beings.