Obama Supports Israel’s Decision to Ease Gaza Blockade

Posted June 20, 2010 at 12:47pm

The White House released a statement Sunday supporting Israel’s announcement that it will ease the blockade of Gaza and allow in most civilian goods.

“Once implemented, we believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons,” the statement reads. “We will work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet, and other international partners to ensure these arrangements are implemented as quickly and effectively as possible and to explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, including greater freedom of movement and commerce between Gaza and the West Bank.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier Sunday that the country would publish a shortened list of banned items into Gaza that would focus on war materiel. The policy change comes after international criticism for the deaths of nine people during an attack on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza last month.

The incident brought a mixed reaction from Members of Congress. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, defended the blockade and sought to bless the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to enforce it. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a resolution this month reiterating the Senate’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself, calling the flotilla “a disgraceful and premeditated attempt to provoke a violent confrontation with Israel.”

Meanwhile, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslim Members of Congress, called for an end to the blockade.

President Barack Obama plans to discuss the new policy and “additional steps” with Netanyahu when he visits Washington on July 6, according to the White House statement. But it also emphasizes the White House’s support for Israel and its “right to self-defense.”

“We urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza,” the release states. “There is no need for unnecessary confrontations, and we call on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.”