On March 5th, the New America Foundation hosted an event featuring Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Brian Baird (D-WA), who discussed their recent trip to Gaza.
To begin the event, the two Congressmen showed a video that included many poignant conversations they had had with ordinary Gazans. The video was meant to highlight the extent to which many civilians continued to be adversely affected by the ongoing closure of crossings into Gaza.
In the ensuing discussion, the message of the Congressmen was clear: the crossings into Gaza must be immediately opened. Congressman Ellison developed this theme, noting that "If we open up the crossings, we can
cut down on the traffic in the tunnels and therefore make sure that nothing goes through those tunnels that will endanger Israeli security, or, by the way, Gazan security...But also, to address the desperate humanitarian conditions we saw in Gaza."v/74boaFtZvCA
It was clear, moreover, that the Congressmen felt solving the closure issue would require active U.S. engagement. As Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said--who joined the event unbilled--"there clearly is a role for outside help...The United States is not helping enough."
New America Foundation's Daniel Levy offered comments as well. He emphasized the extent to which opening the crossings and creating economic breathing space for Gazans would act as a disincentive for provocations by Hamas, and make some kind of unification between the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza more likely.
He later emphasized the degree to which 2005's Movement and Access Agreement to ensure access to the world market in Gaza was not being effectively implemented, and how a continued closure of crossings would do nothing to correct the Gazan reliance on a black-market, tunnel economy.
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