Towards a prudent, tough exercise of power…

One of my central arguments in politics has been that, while it is easy for those who don’t exercise power to call for peaceful, kind policies on the left hand, or ‘bomb them into the stone age’ policies on the right hand, those who actually hold power have to exercise it prudently, seeking to obtain their objectives without crossing into immorality.  Although it was a very difficult, wrenching decision to restrict the flow of energy and food to Gaza, the barrage of missiles on Israeli southern towns has become unbearable; Barak and Olmert had to do something.  They must avoid the risk that starvation or other substantial human suffering occurs, but still pressure the Gazan population to toss out the terrorist Hamas government.  It is easy for Peace Now, Meretz, liberal American Jews, and the world community to express outrage at Israeli actions — it’s always easy to be the good guy — until you hold the power yourself and have to protect your citizens.  Likewise it is easy for right-wingers to say emotionally, ‘bomb Gaza City’, but it is the government that has to deal with questions of basic human morality and what it means to be a Jew — and all the history of Jewish suffering that encompasses the latter.  Read on…

 From Jpost 1/21/08: 

Following a security assessment made Monday evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to slightly ease the siege on Gaza and to allow medical supplies, medicine and a minimal amount of diesel fuel for the power plant in Gaza.

Barak spoke to Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and assured him that Israel had no interest in the creation of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza but at the same time would not allow the Palestinians to fire rockets into the western Negev.

Earlier on Monday, a UN aid agency spokesman said International food aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip will have to be suspended if Israel’s economic closure of Gaza continues.

“We are going to have to suspend operations on Thursday or Friday … because we are running out of plastic bags we use for food, and we are running out of fuel,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which distributes food aid to 860,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza.

Most of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents are reliant on food aid for survival. However, another UN agency which provides food to 270,000 Gaza residents said it had enough supplies only until the end of this week.

UNRWA will run out of the plastic bags on Thursday, said its Gaza director, John Ging. The bags are used for sugar and lentil rations.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Photo: AP [file]

Ging said he expected fuel supplies to run out at the same time. UNRWA is now giving emergency fuel supplies to hospitals and pharmacies. The agency operates schools, medical clinics and distributes food throughout Gaza.

“All the humanitarian agencies on the ground are trying to avert a disaster but we are running out of time, Ging said.”We are all in a very vulnerable situation because of limited supplies.”

Ging said his staff submitted an application to the Defense Ministry, which controls what can enter Gaza, to receive more plastic bags. He said the application was approved on Sunday, but that Israel had already sealed off Gaza by that time.

Defense Ministry officials were not available for comment.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel would continue to exert pressure on Gaza in an effort to put an end to Kassam fire on the western Negev.

“As far as I’m concerned, the residents of Gaza can walk, and they will not get gasoline because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that does not allow the residents of southern Israel to live in peace,” the prime minister said at a Kadima faction meeting.

Earlier, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak personally telephoned Olmert and demanded that Israel stop its siege on the Gaza Strip, which, Mubarak claimed, would soon cause an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Olmert assured Mubarak that Israel was aware of what it was doing and would not let the situation become critical.

Also Monday, Olmert met with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and told him that Hamas was intensifying the crisis in Gaza in order to create international pressure on Israel.

Olmert’s words to the Dutch foreign minister echoed statements made earlier Monday by officials in the defense establishment.

“We are trying to hit only those involved in terrorism, but also signaling to the population in Gaza that it cannot be free from responsibility for the situation,” Olmert told Verhagen.

Meanwhile, the Knesset’s Finance Committee approved the extension of a special assistance package for Sderot and other Gaza periphery settlements until the end of 2008.

In related news, Army Radio reported that four residents from east Jerusalem, some of them minors, were detained by police under suspicion that they demanded Jerusalem store owners close down as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

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