As Bennett protests, new unemployment figures show damaging effect of Gaza closure

February 12, 2014. In the wake of a ban on transferring construction materials to Gaza’s private sector, the unemployment rate in the Strip jumped six points to 38.5% in the last quarter of 2013, according to data released today by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The data, showing that 29,400 more people in Gaza have joined the ranks of the unemployed, was released even as an Israeli minister denied that Israel is imposing a closure on the Gaza Strip. For comparison, unemployment in the West Bank stands at 18.2%

Unemployment in Gaza is now the highest it has been since 2010, the year Israel eased a policy of restricting the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. A major contributing factor is the collapse of the construction industry, in the wake of Egypt’s crackdown on smuggling tunnels last summer and an Israeli ban, imposed in October, on allowing transfer of construction materials to Gaza’s private sector. In the second half of 2013, 11,000 construction workers lost their jobs. Additional factors include an Israeli imposed ban on marketing goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank, where 85% of the external markets are, and tight restrictions on the movement of people via Israeli- and Egyptian-controlled crossings. Israel does not allow Gaza to operate an airport or seaport and controls all crossings between Gaza and the West Bank.

The unemployment figures were released even as Israeli Economic and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads a major coalition party, walked out of a speech by the visiting President of the European Parliament, in protest of his claim that Israel is imposing a siege on Gaza. Bennett called the claim fictitious.

Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement has called upon Israel to remove restrictions on civilian movement into and out of Gaza, especially the ban on construction materials, the ban on marketing goods in Israel and the West Bank and the tight restrictions on movement of people between Gaza and Israel and the West Bank.

“The jump in unemployment in Gaza could be reversed almost immediately, if Israel would remove restrictions on civilian movement”, said Gisha Director Sari Bashi.