Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Gaza Impressions of the Turkish-Israeli Deal

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Gaza Impressions of the Turkish-Israeli Deal

Article excerpt

THERE MAY NOT be many customers lately, but Munir Akhras, 46, nevertheless stands at his shop door, trying to make a living selling light switches and bulbs in Israeli-blockaded Gaza. On this late June day, however, he also feels abandoned and frustrated on hearing of Turkey's renewal of ties with Israel, and its decision to drop demands that Israel end the siege of Gaza.

"Turkey pretended to be an ally...but politics are immoral," he observes. He adds, however, that hope persists that a possible reconciliation between Turkey and Egypt may put pressure on Cairo to open the Rafah crossing. Currently the crossing is opened only under exceptional circumstances-even though Gaza's 1.9 million residents see the Israeli blockade, enforced also by Egypt, as constituting such circumstances, as well as violating international law. With few exceptions, the Rafah crossing has been shut for months.

Egypt cites security in Sinai as justification for the closure, but Gazans feel it is Egypt's way of punishing Gazans who in 2006, along with West Bank Palestinians, democratically voted for Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In their much-anticipated June 26 announcement, Turkey and Israel said relations would thaw after six years of animosity over the Israeli boarding of the humanitarian aid ship Mavi Marmara in international waters offthe coast of Gaza, when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals and an American citizen.

But hoped-for concessions from the Israelis-namely the easing of Gaza's siege and naval blockade-were unrealized. Instead, Israel agreed to allow 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza as well as the future construction of a much needed hospital and desalination and power plants.

"In Gaza we were hoping for more-we want our children to wake up one day to no military or economic blockade," Akhras says, to his friend Mustapha Tartouri's statement that the deal brings some hope that Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza will gain attention in the international media. …

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