Sunday, February 22, 2009

US Congressmen Baird and Ellison: "Israel Must Change Counterproductive Gaza Policies"

The Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2009 - Banning lentils and pasta from Gaza does not help the cause of peace, two visiting congressmen told The Jerusalem Post on Friday morning, after making a rare visit to Gaza the previous day.

When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" asked Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington).

He and Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) called on Israel to end the economic isolation of Gaza and to open the crossings into the area, which have been closed since Hamas's coup there in June 2007.

Their call came two days after the cabinet agreed to link the full opening of the crossings to the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held in Gaza since June 2006.

Ellison said he had taken the efforts to free Schalit to heart and had a copy of his dog tags in his office.

"I have met with his family and prayed for his release. But you know he is not going to get out any faster by inflicting pain and punishment on 1.5 million Palestinians [in Gaza]. It is not going to happen that way," he said.Israel's policy toward Gaza "is not designed for success or to win the release of Gilad Schalit."....

Maj. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, told the Post that lentils and pasta would be allowed into Gaza as of Sunday.

Some 100,000 tons of supplies had been allowed into Gaza since the end of Operation Cast Lead, but the list of items deemed to be essential had not included lentils and pasta, he said.

Baird told the Post already on Friday that even if the IDF changed its stance on those two items, the issue was much larger.

"Let's not get hung upon lentils and macaroni," he said...

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