The Israeli government made an announcement today that they had agreed to a “significant” easing of the Gaza blockade, allowing items like food and toys into the region in larger amounts and even allowing some construction materials in. The announcement was met, predictably, with US State Department praise.
But is the announcement real, or was it done purely for PR purposes? While Israel released its announcement, in English, following the meeting, they also released a Hebrew version for local media consumption at the same time, and the two versions are starkly different.
While the English-only version, the version sent to all foreign diplomats, claims that the decision “was made,” the Hebrew version that the Israeli press got insisted that the meeting just included ministers voicing their opinions on a possible easing and that no vote ever took place on any particular draft.
Israel’s successful “management” of the domestic media in the wake of the Mavi Marmara has put it in something of a bind on this issue. The attack on the aid ship has brought renewed focus to the blockade and rising calls abroad to ease it greatly or end it entirely. Israeli voters however have been fed a steady diet of increasingly absurd claims about additional medicine providing an “existential threat” and how unfair international criticism is, and are firmly against changes.
In this regard the announcements couldn’t have been more perfect. The announcement meant for foreign consumption said exactly what many Western nations wanted, while the domestic announcement promised nothing but just claimed there were some conversations.
The announcement will likely be more than enough for most Western leaders, in fact, who are already praising the “announcement” and taking it at face value. The announcement of an easing is in all the papers as an absolute fact, and all is right with the world.
But the announcement and the easing itself are two very different things, and reports from the military personnel in charge of enforcing the blockade say that they haven’t been informed of a policy change at all. It is business as usual at the Gaza border, despite what any announcement may have said.