Israeli politicians and military officials have been quoted in headlines over the past week warning against the imminent collapse of the Gaza Strip. The deterioration of living conditions in Gaza has undoubtedly accelerated. Anyone who has followed the situation in the Strip knows this acceleration is the direct result of an enduring and deliberate policy. For over a decade, Israel has pursued a failed policy of closure on Gaza, through which it controls the entry and exit of every person and container of goods to and from the Strip. If Israel had discontinued its political strategy of collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, its rescue plans and calls for international mobilization would be rendered unnecessary. If Israel acknowledged its responsibility for the Gaza Strip, deriving from its longstanding and ongoing control over everyday life there, it would not take actions that hinder economic development in the Strip, prevent the rebuilding and maintenance of its infrastructure and impair the quality of life of its residents.
Fundamental human rights should not be subjected to political decisions. Individual security checks should be the only condition for movement of people and goods through Gaza’s crossings, which are also its gateways to the West Bank, the other part of the Palestinian territory. The severe restrictions imposed by Israel on freedom of movement deny residents of Gaza access to family, livelihoods, health care, and education.
There is a lot that can be done immediately to improve the situation in Gaza that does not involve massive financial investment or ambitious plans that would take years to implement: Increasing the variety of Gaza-grown produce allowed for sale in Israel and the West Bank, allowing processed foods and other goods to be sold in the West Bank and Israel; shutting down the cumbersome mechanism that labels most items required for developing infrastructure and industry as “dual-use,” greatly delaying their entry into Gaza; permitting workers from Gaza to enter Israel to work; significantly expanding the narrow criteria for eligibility to apply for a travel permit, and; removing restrictions from areas in the sea and on land that are vital for economic activity.
For the sake of residents in both Gaza and Israel, immediate steps should also be taken to begin implementing existing plans to build a commercial crossing in the northern Gaza Strip and to expedite other infrastructure projects that are at various stages of execution and have been delayed for a variety of unnecessary reasons. There is certainly more that can be done, but any achieving would require the authorities and agencies that contribute to the worsening conditions in Gaza to come to terms with reality. Israel must recognize the role it has played and continues to play in creating the dire situation in the Strip, and take responsibility for changing it.