The ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel includes language about “easing passage for movement of people and goods through the crossings”. Gisha expresses hope that any new arrangement will take into consideration and respect the rights of Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, subject only to individual security checks. Here are 10 facts about the connection between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel.
1. Throughout history, within the area of “mandatory Palestine”, now divided into the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel, there was nearly complete freedom of movement, with the exception of the years 1949-1967. In the 1990s Israel began restricting this passage.
2. Every month, Israel allows about 4,000 entries by Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel via the Erez crossing. By way of comparison, in September 2000, there were more than half a million entries.
3. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were recognized as forming a single territorial unit in the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the United States and Russia serving as witnesses. International human rights law protects the right of Palestinian residents to travel inside the Palestinian territory and to choose their place of residence within this territory.
4. Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are registered in the population registry, which is administered by Israel. When a Palestinian child is born, whether in Gaza City or in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority informs the Israeli army, which approves the issuing of new identification numbers.
5. Ever since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, there have been two Palestinian governments – one in Ramallah in the West Bank and the other in Gaza. Coordination for the movement of people and goods between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank is carried out by the Ramallah government, which still employs staff in the Gaza Strip.
6. More than five million Palestinians live between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. They have family connections in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel allows family visits between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank in exceptional humanitarian cases. Additionally, Israeli citizens who marry residents of the Gaza Strip are permitted to live with their spouses in Gaza. With few exceptions, Israel does not allow Gaza residents to unite with their spouses in Israel or in the West Bank.
7. In addition to individualized permits, Israel allowed about 12,000 Gaza residents to travel between Gaza and the West Bank each month via the “Safe Passage” that operated between 1999 and 2000.
8. Before Israel banned the sale of goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank in June 2007, more than 85% of the goods shipped out of Gaza were sold in these areas, primarily in Israel.
9. Palestinian civil society is active both in Gaza and in the West Bank and serves the entire Palestinian population. Large organizations have branches in both parts of the territory.
10. In 1998, before students from Gaza were banned from studying in the West Bank, some 1,000 students from Gaza studied in universities in the West Bank, including in study programs not available in the Gaza Strip. Israel prevents students who are residents of Gaza from traveling to the West Bank in order to enroll in universities as part of the “separation policy” but, under some circumstances, permits the same individuals to travel for short-term training and seminars.