By Dr. Ahmad Youssef
Indeed, all things do come to an end.
The blood of the martyrs aboard the Marmara ship was not spilled in vain. It was a wakeup call to the world and opened their eyes to the injustice and criminality exercised by the rogue occupation forces against the Palestinians. The sacrifices and heroic actions of those onboard the ships and boats sent to break the blockade had a great media, political, and humanitarian impact and had everyone speaking out against this inhumane blockade imposed on the people of Gaza. The U.N High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, and others weighed in on this matter and declared that there is no security or moral grounds justifying the continuation of this blockade.
As a result, pleas and proposals came about expressing the need to end the blockade in a way that gives the Palestinians the right to communicate with the world through both the ground and sea ports available to them.
Although Britain presented a proposal to the European Union in the context of easing the severity of the blockade, it was not, as we hoped and the world expected, a call to end the blockade. The European Union's Foreign Affairs Council meeting held in Luxemburg on June 14th 2010 resulted in a proposal that only differs from the British one in the choice of words, but the main issue remained the same; i.e. continuing to put new forms of pressure on Hamas and providing a lifesaver to the Israelis which enables them to elude punishment and legal accountability, which in turn, pulls the rug from under the ships sent to break the blockade.
Lifting the Blockade and Establishing a Sea Crossing
It is self-evident to say that Israel, as an occupying state, does not have the legal right to interfere with Gaza's crossings with Egypt, nor with its crossings with the rest of the world. Israel's interference and imposition of its conditions is an indirect form of occupation, or, to be more precise, an indirect continuation of the occupation of the Gaza Strip, and is a matter that warrants the resistance of the Palestinians and renders resistance a form of self-defence. Furthermore, it justifies continuing to send Gaza solidarity convoys to break the blockade and end the Israeli interference with the lives of the Gazans.
We, the government, demand the following:
- The right of the Palestinians to have an international sea port, subject to International Law and International Maritime agreements, including the current port in Gaza, known as the fishermen's port, which will be the nucleus of this port.
- The right for Palestine to have an international ground crossing with the Arab Republic of Egypt, subject to International Law and bilateral agreements governing the proceedings, and Israel will have nothing whatsoever to do with this crossing. Any interference on the part of Israel will be considered a form of occupation that warrants resistance.
- The Palestinian port on Gaza's coastline will be Free Palestine's window to the world, which of course, does not revoke the Palestinians' right to have a safe crossing between the West Bank and Gaza, which achieves both geographic and political unity between the two halves of the country.
- The negotiation of breaking the blockade, the Rafah ground crossing, and Gaza's sea port does not affect our right to resume the use of the Gaza International Airport and free the Palestinian air space from occupation in accordance with what is dictated by International Law.
We, the government, insist that any censorship mechanism or inspections put forward by the international community must not violate or restrain the Palestinian right of sovereignty and the freedom of trade and travel.
Given all of the above, we view any proposal made by international figures concerning managing the Rafah crossing with Egypt using a private international company that has experience in International Law and will protect the rights of the Palestinians as a proposal worth considering.
Turkey's Role and Erdogan's Government
We have a special bond with Turkey, one that is characterized by religious and cultural dimensions. Moreover, Palestinians have a place in the heart of Turkish Islamists and secularists alike. We believe the government of Recip Tayyip Erdogan has put great effort towards alleviating the suffering of the Palestinians by working on providing all forms of support and aid to many victims of the most recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, Turkey stepped up politically to convince the world of the injustice endured by the Palestinians, as well as the need to put an end to the isolation imposed on the Hamas government since it is a legitimate government that came into effect based on the majority vote it received from the Palestinians during the elections held in January 2006. As a movement, Hamas represents the majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which makes it necessary for the international community to deal with it, as well as open the horizons of communication and dialogue with its Parliament and political leaders.
What's more, the government of Erdogan strived, through communication with the Palestinian parties, to work towards bringing their views and attitudes closer in an attempt to reconcile the Palestinians, in addition to trying to be supportive of the appreciated Egyptian efforts in the same regard. We, as Palestinians, are greatly counting on Turkey's role in recovering the geo-strategic balance in the region. Turkey is, more than any other country, capable of filling the huge leadership vacuum in the Middle East and able to play an active role in restoring the cultural status of the Arabs and Muslims among the other nations.
Turkey is currently a central player in international politics, and is, without a doubt, the most capable to assume the role of "solution maker" for most of the region's problems. It was able to achieve great success, solve crises, and contain tensions, near and far, on more than one level, which makes it trusted and admired by the Arabs, Muslims and the international community.
Furthermore, the sacrifices made by the Turkish people concerning lifting the siege will not be forgotten by us. The blood of their martyrs will remain entrusted to us and will forever be in the pages of our great history.
It is safe for us to say that today we are closer than ever to reconciliation and that our mental and national preparations have become more accepted by all the Palestinian parties, considering the repercussions separation would have on our social, political, and militant web, in addition to the future of our existence and our national undertaking of freeing and returning to Palestine.
We have begun to have a deeper realization of responsibility and are taking a more mature approach towards the national reconciliation of all Palestinian parties. Perhaps the signs shown by the Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, and President Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen" are indicators of the nearing possibility of signing the Egyptian reconciliation paper, while guaranteeing to take Hamas' notes into consideration in a manner that will be agreed upon by the Palestinians.
Amr Moussa's visit to the Gaza Strip
The visit made by the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to Gaza has, in fact, two dimensions. First, the blockade was no longer justified and the Arabs, Muslims, and the liberals of the world must set sail towards Gaza, just as the Secretary General, who represents 22 Arab countries, set sail to Gaza and officially declared, from there, the end of the blockade. Second, the Palestinian reconciliation is embraced by the Arab League, as it provides an extra safety net that reinforces Egypt's efforts to achieve reconciliation and end the separation, as well as redirecting the national Palestinian arena's compass to point towards a free and independent Palestinian state.
Therefore, the upcoming weeks and months are, without a doubt, an important point in the history of our people. We will witness positive transformations at the level of building political partnerships and peaceful deliberation of authority, in addition to fruitful communication with our Arab and Islamic partners and opening wider channels with the international community.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.