The lost footnotes of COGAT’s latest report

This month, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) published a report in English summarizing its activities over the course of 2012. The section on Gaza is comprehensive, thorough and informative, but it tells only part of the story. Gisha brings you the imagined, missing footnotes that will help convey a more nuanced picture of the situation.

[1] The report only describes 2012, but take note that on March 21, the fishing zone was reduced back to 3 nautical miles from shore following rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

[2] We are still preventing the sale of Gaza-made goods to the private sector in the West Bank and Israel. These markets were once the destination for some 85% of the goods sold outside of Gaza before 2007. This decision, as we have stated in the past, is a political decision, made in the context of the separation policy. We also wish to correct an error in the text – textile from the Gaza Strip was not marketed to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in 2012.

[3] The expression “agricultural season” should not be taken to mean that agricultural activity in the Gaza Strip only takes place during one season of the year. It refers to the season during which agricultural products are exported from Gaza to Europe in a project funded by the Dutch government. During the remaining seasons, agricultural products from Gaza are in demand in Israel and the West Bank, however access to these markets is prohibited according to government’s orders.

[4] Unlike in other sections in this report, the comparison to 2011 figures has been omitted from this table. Additionally, we may have erred in our calculations considering the fact that Palestinian sources actually report higher numbers. The table below presents figures taken from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), which indicate that in 2012, a total of 695.9 tons of agricultural products (not including flowers, which are counted in units), were exported from Gaza, as opposed to 546.5 tons in 2011.

Despite the fact that, compared to 2011, 2012 saw a slight increase in the export of goods, the agricultural and industrial sectors in the Gaza Strip are still far from reaching their manufacturing and employment potential because of government instructions to prohibit the sale of Gaza-made goods to the private sector in Israel and the West Bank. So, for example, while in 2012, 334.5 tons of strawberries were exported (a decrease of about a third compared to 2011), the potential for strawberry export from Gaza is estimated at 2,300 tons per year. During all of 2012, 262 truckloads of goods left the Gaza Strip, as opposed to 9,787 truckloads which exited in 2005.

[5] We continue to restrict travel by people who are not traders, medical patients and their companions or employees of international organizations, even in cases where no security allegations are made against an individual who doesn’t fall into these categories. The official policy still allows for travel almost exclusively for “exceptional humanitarian reasons, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases”. Travel by students to the West Bank is still strictly prohibited, as it has been since October 2000. Travel to the West Bank for the purpose of family unification and attending professional conferences and seminars remains very limited. It is worth noting that the figure 61,634 does not actually refer to the number of individuals who crossed Erez, but rather to the number of entries into Israel. In other words, there were multiple entries over the year by the same individuals, namely traders. Exit permits for trade purposes are given only to a limited number of senior traders, all but four of whom are men.

[6] On average, it takes about 10 months to process requests for bringing in constructions materials for each project funded by the international community. We have recently started permitting limited entry of gravel for the private sector in the Gaza Strip (up to 20 trucks a day) without requiring special permits. Yet, we still require international organizations to undergo a lengthy bureaucratic process which delays projects and increases their cost. Additionally, we have rejected 11% of UN-funded projects, estimated at about 52 million dollars.

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