Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Israel Undertakes To 'Normalise' Shipping Cargo Into Gaza

Signs That Diplomatic Pressures May Have Had Some Influence
Shipping News Feature

ISRAEL – GAZA – Few people in the world can be unaware of the bloody stalemate which exists between the two Governments of these Middle East regions, nor indeed the recent conflict involving a convoy which tried to deliver to Gaza recently and cost the lives of nine individuals. It is the business of the Handy Shipping Guide to concern itself only with matters directly concerning the freight industry in all its forms and therefore up to now we have ignored the blizzard of e mails and press releases raining down on us from both, seemingly irreconcilable, sides.

The latest release from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs however, seems to be the first indication that there may be a softening of policy toward the besieged Gaza population. Beside the usual sabre rattling rhetoric and criminal accusations that litter communications from both sides of this lamentable dispute are some signs that there may be a possibility of a return to, if not normalised return of trade, at least a practical solution acceptable to both parties.

Israel’s stance of course, and not without some justification, is that convoys travelling unhindered into Gaza may in fact contain items used to make weapons and munitions of various types. There is no doubt that the ruling Hamas party harbour elements who will happily rain down weapons of terror on, what they see as, an invader. The proposals set out today by Israel, if adhered to, go some way to alleviate the problems besetting the innocent population in Gaza.

The Israeli Government states that it will publish a list of prohibited materials, including possible ‘dual use’ items that can be used to create makeshift weapons. It will enable and increase the import of construction materials for approved Palestinian Authority authorized projects (schools, health facilities, water, sanitation, etc.) that are under international supervision and for housing projects such as the U.N. housing development being completed at Khan Yunis. It will expand operations at the existing operating land crossings, thereby enabling the processing of a significantly greater volume of goods through the crossings and the expansion of economic activity including enlarging existing crossings as trade accelerates and introduce new border crossings when volumes demand.

In addition Israel says it will ‘continue’ to facilitate the expeditious inspection and delivery of goods bound for Gaza through the port of Ashdod (one of the complaints from Gaza is that shipments are subject to unreasonable delays and levels of inspection).

It is to be hoped that the increased cooperation means a return to ‘normal’ shipments between the two states and that if both sides can learn to give a little ground by releasing prisoners etc. some degree of peace can return to the region. The situation will however depend on a adherence to the ‘Quartets’ (US, EU, Russia and UN)principles and instruction guidelines.