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A Year of Israel Rebuffing the US on Gaza Crossings

As we near the 1-year anniversary of the end of the Gaza War, the Gaza Strip remains under siege, with Israel allowing very little - in terms of either goods or people - to enter or exit the area.  Last week, in an appearance on the Charlie Rose show, Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell said that he thought Israel would have be better off if it opens the crossings (and thus lifts or seriously alleviates the siege).  

This is not the first time senior US government officials have argued that Israel should lift the siege.  Indeed, almost exactly a year ago President Obama made the same argument - and made it several times since - only to be ignored by Israel.

January 6, 2010:  Exchange between Middle East Special Envoy Mitchell and Charlie Rose (video here, transcript here).  

Charlie Rose: ...are the Israelis continuing to engage in embargoes and sanctions that prevent the Palestinians in Gaza to have some kind of, you know, improvement in their life?
George Mitchell: Yes, they have not permitted full opening of the crossings --
Charlie Rose: Do you agree with that?
George Mitchell: I think they would be better off if they reopened the crossings...

September 23, 2009: President Obama speaking to the United Nations General Assembly

"We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us.  It's not paid by politicians.  It's paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night.  It's paid for by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own.  These are all God's children."

June 5, 2009: President Obama speaking at press availability with Chancellor Merkel of Germany

"...I mentioned some of the other issues that I've discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, for example, increasing freedom of movement within the West Bank, dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and allowing reconstruction to proceed more aggressively..."

June 4, 2009: President Obama speaking to the press corps (in Cairo)

" the end of this year my country will have invested $900 million, almost a billion dollars, in humanitarian relief in Gaza.  I think it's very important that we find ways to loosen the borders so that more supplies, more medicine, more infrastructure development, can get into Gaza for rebuilding.  I think part of that is the international community working to ensure that the smuggling of weapons that are then fired into Israel are no longer taking place.  That's going to be a difficult task, but it's one that we're going to have to work on, because in the absence of that we're not going to solve it."

June 4, 2009: President Obama speaking "on a New Beginning" (Cairo)

"Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.  Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress."

May 18, 2009:  President Obama at the press availability with Prime Minister Netanyahu

"...the fact is, is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can't even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward."

January 22, 2009: President Obama speaking to employees of the Department of State

"I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who've faced suffocating poverty for far too long.  Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.  Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them..."