For the last couple of years the Israeli Government has become accustomed to ignoring occasional mild criticisms coming from Condileza Rice, secure in the knowledge that they had a blank check to deal with the Palestinians any way they wanted to from George Bush.
Now the Israeli Government's blank check is about to bounce.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. A leading political source in Jerusalem noted that senior Clinton aides have made it clear that the matter will be central to Clinton's planned visit to Israel next Tuesday.
Ahead of Clinton's visit, special U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is expected to issue a sharply worded protest on the same matter when he arrives here Thursday.
"Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," senior U.S. officials told Israeli counterparts last week, and reiterated Washington's view by saying that "the U.S. expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter."
Israel has been dragging its feet in an effort to further punish the 1.5 million residents od Gaza by denying them adequate food, enough clean water, and materials for urgently needed repairs.
Sources at the defense establishment confirmed last night that pressure is increasing on Israel to reopen the crossings to larger volumes of aid for the Gaza Strip. Defense sources said that Israel will find it increasingly difficult to counter the pressure, and may agree to more extensive use of the crossings for aid. Currently, fewer than 200 trucks carrying aid are allowed through daily. The U.S., the EU and the UN are demanding that at least 500 trucks carrying aid be allowed into the Strip daily.
For more details on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza please see yesterday's excellent diary by unspeakable: The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
Some in Israel (and the U.S.) want to frame the lifting of the Blockade of Gaza as a consession to Hamas.
Lifting the Blockade of Gaza is simply recognizes of the humanity of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, of which a majority are women and children.
Tonight Obama said in his speech to the Congress:
In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.
To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.
Yesterday we learned that the U.S. will be sending $900 million in aid to shattered Gaza. US to give '$900m in Gaza aid' That sends a powerful message to Netanyahu that America cares about the well being of Palestinians as well as Israelis.
Lets hope this marks the beginning of a new chapter in the U.S. Israeli relations, where America's interests are fully taken into account, right along with Israel's. Its a change that is overdue.