United States officials praised Israel's change in policy regarding the blockade on Hamas-run Gaza Sunday. Quartet representative Tony Blair expressed satisfaction as well, but added, “the test of course will be not what it said, but what is done.”
Israel will now allow all civilian goods into Gaza through its crossings in the southern Negev, and only weapons and materials used to make weapons will be banned. Dual-purpose goods such as cement, which is also used for reinforcing bunkers and launching pads, will be allowed through for supervised projects.
Egypt had imposed a blockade on Hamas as well, but recently opened its Gaza crossing in Rafiah. So far, Egypt has permitted civilian traffic and the transfer of medical supplies.
"The United States welcomes the new policy towards Gaza announced by the government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community,” said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "Israel's long-term interests lie in creating an environment where Gaza's economy can flourish. The test now is how the new policy will be carried out."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said of Netanyahu, “He has been clear about what he intends to do, what he needs to do. And the president has been clear of what we need to do to seize this moment of opportunity here in the region to finally make peace.”
The policy change followed criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama, who recently called the blockade “unsustainable" after a clash between Israeli commandos and terror activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla that aimed to break Israel's naval blockade.
The naval blockade will remain in place, Netanyahu said Sunday. Sources reported that the prime minister believes loosening the blockade on goods will increase international acceptance of the security blockade on Gaza.
As Netanyahu announced Israel's new Gaza policy, Emanuel told reporters that the prime minister has been invited to Washington on July 6. A meeting between Netanyahu and Obama planned for late May was pushed off due to the flotilla clash.