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The 27 could propose a mechanism for lifting the blockade of Gaza

PostBorderKeremShalom-Isr060901.jpg(BRUSSELS2) The 27 EU foreign ministers who meet on Monday in Luxembourg could offer their good offices in the Gaza crisis.

The EU wants to support the lifting of a blockade which it continues to judge “ unacceptable » and which she requests to be lifted. The EU could thus propose, both, an increase in the volume and especially the type of goods that can enter Gaza as well as a “ support mechanism » international control of border points towards Gaza to verify that goods arriving in the Palestinian territory comply with the international list and to prevent any arms smuggling.

Reverse blockade logic

The objective – explains a European diplomat – is to “reverse the logic of current blockade towards a logic of strict control”, by offering a range of tools to facilitate this evolution.

However, the 27 will not give the green light to a new PeSDC operation on Monday. We're not there yet. They will give a mandate to Cathy Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, to study different options and above all to get the Israelis (and Egyptians) to renew the 2005 agreement. Political “push” to put the offer publicly on the table so that it can be taken up by the Americans and put pressure on the various partners (Israelis, Egyptians).

A diplomatic firing window

All these proposals are, in fact, subject to one condition: the agreement of the Israelis and Egyptians to renew the 2005 agreement. Which is no small matter. The context is favorable. The Israeli government has “a monumental mistake” by launching his commandos on the flotilla for Gaza. In a way, "he must pay“. But we must “offer him a way out of the crisis. (...) A kind of give and take".

International pressure is at the maximum it could be. But we have to go quickly. On the one hand, before the pressure drops. And let the Europeans move on to other matters. On the other hand, before the United States really enters the campaign for mid-term renewal. An EU diplomat believes that there is a window for action on the American side, “until approximately mid-July".

Nobody is talking about a “give and take” on the international investigation. But the idea is there. The Europeans – even if they officially say the opposite – accept the idea of ​​an Israeli investigation with an international component (an American and a European) as it is currently under discussion; the Israelis agree to relax the blockade on Gaza by accepting an increase in goods and international monitoring.

Land and sea control options

Here are some of the options studied at European level and which will be debated on Monday, possibly accompanied by a small “off record” comment on the feasibility of such a measure.

• Resumption of the EUBAM Rafah operation to control the passenger entry point of Rafah to Gaza. This first solution would be very limited and would not resolve the blockade. Because it only concerns “passenger points”.

• Extension of European surveillance to the goods entry points of Kernit and even Kerem Shalom. Undoubtedly the most effective solution for lifting the blockade and the quickest to put in place. Because it does not require an upheaval of the systems in place, both on the Israeli side and on the European side. “The small EUBAM team already in place in Israel can finalize the preliminary planning work on site, quickly. Just send a few more experts. And we can startr ".

• Sending a team of international controllers to an Israeli port (Ashdod) to carry out the same work. This is the maritime part of the “European offer”.

• Sending a team of inspectors to Cyprus where boats bound for Gaza (direct) or via Israel would stop to check that there are no weapons on board. Quite a complex solution to implement because it would then require maritime surveillance (or escort) of the boats to their safe port.

At the European level, if politically a clear majority of member states are roughly in agreement on the need to lift the blockade and propose an international facilitator, it still remains to be seen how the details will be adjusted, and especially the terms (the Czechs and Dutch are always more reluctant to sanctions on Israel).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(photo credit: Israeli forces – Kerem Shalom border crossing)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).