Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held a conference call with bloggers, where she received questions — including from ThinkProgress — about Israel’s raid of the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and activists bound for Gaza. Pelosi refused to speak directly about whether Israel’s blockade is causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying that the focus should instead be on solving Middle East peace through a two-state solution:
PELOSI: Well, first of all, this incident, as you mentioned, is very recent. There is very strong interest in getting the facts and a transparent and credible investigation is what people are calling for — that’s what the White House has mentioned, and that’s what I support as well. We have to have the facts on which to make a judgment about how we go forward. I don’t know — I appreciate what you’re saying that people are suffering from different physical challenges because of the blockade. I don’t know that. I know blockades have consequences. … But the fact is, this is a terribly regrettable situation. I regret the loss of life first and foremost, and again, call for a credible and transparent investigation about how this came to be. […]
TP QUESTION: Do you think the blockade of Gaza should be lifted because it’s causing undue suffering on the people in the region?
PELOSI: […] I don’t want to go into a discussion of the blockade of Gaza. I hope that we can end that by having a resolution in terms of Middle East peace. That’s where we spend our time, not necessarily on one particular tactics of one country or the next, but on the bigger picture, which is we must have peace in the Middle East. It must respect both sides, it must have a two-state solution — and I emphasize the solution part of it, so that both sides feel respected and well-treated and safe as they go forward with the new peace agreement — and I hope that whatever actions are taken on both sides, it’s in furtherance of that peace.
Though Congress doesn’t seem to want to talk about it, Israel’s blockade of Gaza has received harsh condemnation from officials and organizations worldwide. Progressive pro-Israel organization J Street issued a statement strongly condemning the human toll of Israel’s blockade: “This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza.” Both the EU and Russia called for the “immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to and from Gaza.” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened.”
As Matt Duss noted in today’s Progress Report, “Though the ostensible reason for the Israeli and Egyptian-enforced siege on Gaza is to weaken the militant group Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ejecting its Fatah rivals in 2007, it has actually had the reverse effect.” CAP Senior Fellow Brian Katulis pointed out in a 2009 report, co-written Marc Lynch and Robert Adler, that the blockade “has hurt the Palestinian people while not substantially inhibiting Hamas. And simultaneously it allows Hamas to blame persistent shortages on the Israeli blockade.”