By Haaretz Service
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel should not lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip unless Hamas agreed to goodwill gestures such as allowing representatives of the Red Cross to visit captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Lieberman told Amir Oren and Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations, that there was no reason to change the status quo with that regard until Hamas acceded to that minimum request.
During their talks in New York, Lieberman also stressed the strategic importance with which he viewed Israel’s relations with Diaspora Jews. Such ties were not just about public relations, Lieberman declared, but were of vital significance to Israel’s existence.
Lieberman’s remarks on the link between Shalit’s release and the lifting of the Gaza blockade echoed pleas made by the captive soldiers’ supporters last week, amid international pressure on Israel to end its siege in the wake of the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
“The Israeli government, the prime minister, and the security minister, while trying to find a solution to the latest diplomatic crisis, have forgotten that the blockade of Gaza serves as an impetus to pressure Hamas as Gilad’s incarceration has already lasted four years,” said Shimshon Liebman, who heads the campaign for Shalit’s release.
Amid worldwide pressure to end Israel’s four-year siege, it was reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering easing the naval blockade of Gaza.
In so doing, he would be acceding to pressure from Washington, which opposes continuing the blockade in its present format and demands that Israel make it easier to send civilian goods to Gaza.
“It can’t be possible that Israel will allow massive amounts of merchandise to enter the Gaza Strip at the same time that Gilad is rotting in a Hamas cellar,” Liebman said.
“If the Israeli government isn’t able to withstand international pressure, they must pay the price that has been demanded to return Gilad,” Liebman said.