I don’t know if Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a good idea or a bad idea. After the incident in the Mediterranean earlier this week, though, when blockade runners on the Mavi Marmara ship attacked Israeli forces and were shot and killed in the process, Israel is likely to face more pressure than ever to lift it.
Let’s be honest about what that would mean.
Hezbollah in Lebanon, which shares a land border with Syria and is not under blockade, has a gigantic arsenal of rockets and missiles, more than most governments in the Middle East, and that arsenal includes missiles that can reach every single inch of Israeli territory, including Jerusalem, downtown Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion International Airport, and the Dimona nuclear power plant. The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will likely mean missiles, artillery shells, and payloads from air strikes will explode all over the Eastern Mediterranean, making last year’s small war in Gaza look even smaller.
Hamas has a relatively tiny arsenal of crude rockets, but if the Gaza Strip were not under military blockade, it could acquire whatever weapons Syria and Iran felt like sending by ship. Gaza could bristle with as many destructive projectiles as Hezbollah has. Food and medicines are allowed into the Strip already, so the most significant difference between Gaza now and a Gaza without a blockade will be the importation of weapons and war material.
More Israelis would be likely to die during the ensuing hostilities, and an even larger number of Palestinians would be likely to die when Israel fights back harder against a better armed and more dangerous adversary.
There’s a case to be made for lifting the blockade, even so. The living standards of Gaza residents might rise a little, and the long list of reasons to gripe about Israel will shorten by one. It doesn’t quite seem worth it to me, but I’m not in charge of these things.