Security officials end Gaza export ban

The headline is premature, since the export ban hasn't been lifted. But it may happen.

Defense officials said on Tuesday that the international community, led by Quartet envoy Tony Blair, was formulating a plan to get Israel to continue to loosen the blockade on the Gaza Strip and, after it lifted restrictions on food imports last week, to now allow Gazans to export goods. Potential markets are Israel, the West Bank and Europe.

Also on Tuesday, the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) informed the Palestinians that starting on Wednesday, 150 trucks – double what was allowed into Gaza before the easing of the blockade – would pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Within a few weeks, COGAT plans to increase the number of trucks to 250.

In addition, The Jerusalem Post has learned that COGAT is compiling a new list of supplies and goods that will be banned from import to the Gaza Strip. One of those goods will be wood. As a result, starting on Wednesday, COGAT will allow the Palestinians to bring in furniture such as couches, chairs, tables and doors, but not wood that could be used to build bunkers and tunnels.

Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to the US said that the Obama administration was pressing for a number of changes to the Gaza blockade, including additional border crossings, giving a greater role to the Palestinian Authority, and adding international observers, perhaps from the European Union.

The ambassador dismissed those suggestions:

Israel would love to see more of a Palestinian Authority presence in Gaza, but opening another crossing or adding EU monitors is dangerous, he warned.

"We've had EU observers there before. Hamas threatened them, and they ran away," Oren said. "If you send them to Gaza, they're likely to get killed."

Oren said the Gaza blockade was not just vital to Israel's security, but vital for the pursuit of a two-state solution as well.

"Once you open up the sea lanes to Gaza, that spells the end of the peace process," he said.

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