Amid today’s report of a canceled visit by the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Gaza’s commercial crossing, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement (Maslak), offers some facts about Israel’s ban on transferring goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel:
• Since 2007, Israel has banned Palestinians in Gaza from transferring goods to Israel and the West Bank, which constitute more than 85% of the markets for Gaza’s outgoing produce, manufactured goods and other items.
• Israel permits limited amounts of goods to be exported to third countries, via the Kerem Shalom Crossing it controls. Although export truckloads undergo security checks and transit though Israel and the West Bank, the trucks are not permitted to unload there, where demand for their goods is highest.
• As a result, Palestinians from Gaza are selling just 2% of the volume of outgoing goods that they were selling prior to the ban.
• The agricultural and manufacturing sectors in Gaza – and the tens of thousands of families dependent on them – are paying the price. Unemployment in Gaza stands at 33%. Prior to 2008, 200 farmers grew cherry tomatoes, primarily for sale in Israel and the West Bank. By 2011, the number was down to 13.
• In 2012 and 2013, Israel piloted exceptions to the ban, allowing 53 truckloads of goods from Gaza to be sold to the Palestinian Authority and the World Food Program in the West Bank and a few trucks of palm fronds (lulav) to be sold to Israel for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The exception has not been widened.
The Dutch government donated the multi-million Euro scanner to the PA for use by Israel. Visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly canceled participation in a planned inauguration ceremony for the scanner, after Israel refused his request that it be used to scan goods transiting from Gaza to the West Bank.
Israel says the ban on Palestinians from Gaza selling goods to Israel and the West Bank is part of what it calls the “Separation Policy“, a policy that contradicts other statements by military officials confirming the importance of economic development in Gaza to stability and to Israel’s own security interests.