On Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet issued an encouraging statement promising to remove many of the restrictions on civilian goods entering Gaza, including those needed for economic activity.
What has changed on the ground since the announcement and more generally, since international pressure mounted on Israel in the wake of the May 31 flotilla incident? The list of consumer goods permitted into Gaza has been expanded to include previously banned items such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and children’s toys. Ah, yes, and chips (french fries) as well, for dipping into the ketchup. But that’s about it.
We are therefore puzzled by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that “we are already seeing a significant growth in the scope of the civilian goods entering Gaza.” There has been no significant change in the volume of trucks entering Gaza, as is evident from Gaza Gateway’s graphs. Last week, for example, 654 trucks entered Gaza, including via the grain elevator, similar to the number that entered in the week before the flotilla incident (662). This week, as of yesterday, the fourth of five working days for the crossings, approximately 567 trucks had entered Gaza, which is consistent with the policy, since June 2007, to allow entry of approximately 25% of what Gaza residents need.
Indeed, it is hard to see how more goods could enter Gaza, given that the one crossing still operating – Kerem Shalom (Kerem Abu Salam) – is working at near capacity with an average of 110 trucks per day of goods, five days per week. The “significant growth” mentioned by Mr. Netanyahu would be difficult unless Israel opens some of the crossings it has sealed over the last three years, including Karni Crossing, Gaza’s commercial lifeline, with a capacity of 1,000 trucks per day.
In any event, as Dan Ephron notes in Newsweek today, without the ability to export finished products and receive raw materials (they are still not being allowed in), economic recovery in Gaza will remain elusive.