Robinson criticises Israel for continued blockade on Gaza


FORMER IRISH president Mary Robinson castigated Israel and the international community at the weekend for maintaining the blockade on Gaza.

Leading a delegation from the global “Elders” on a 24-hour visit to the strip on Saturday, Mrs Robinson said: “I was last here in 2008, just before the Gaza war. The situation has deteriorated to a shocking extent since then. This is not a humanitarian crisis – it is a political crisis, and it can be solved politically.

“It is unconscionable and unacceptable that Israel and the international community have not lifted the blockade fully to allow Gazans to rebuild their lives and be part of the interconnected world that we take for granted.”

Following a meeting with de facto prime minister Ismail Hani- yeh, Mrs Robinson declared that Hamas, which won the 2006 parliamentary election and controls Gaza, should not be excluded from Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. She revealed that there is “encouraging news” about reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, which administers West Bank Palestinian enclaves.

Delegation member and former Algerian foreign minister, Lakhdar Brahimi urged Palestinian leaders to finalise the unity pact drafted by Egypt and called for an end to the blockade.

“Holding 1.5 million people in what is effectively an open prison is deepening the sense of anger and injustice [among] Palestinians.”

Indian human rights activist Ela Bhatt observed that Gazans “have the right to develop their economy” but face worsening conditions.

The three, who also met with UN officials, opinion leaders and rights bodies, issued a statement saying the “isolation of Gaza is not only illegal collective punishment but also an impediment to peace.”

Former US president Jimmy Carter is set to join the Elders’ tour to Damascus, where they will meet with Hamas’s politburo, Amman and the West Bank.

While in Ramallah the Elders are expected to discuss with Pa- lestinian officials options other than negotiations suspended since Israel resumed construction in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

These options, including recourse to the UN Security Council, will be submitted to the Arab League next month.