September 21, 2015. For the first time since 2007, Israel will allow marketing of ironworks, furniture and textile from Gaza in Israel. This according to comments made by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to a journalist. The sale of goods is meant to begin October 7th, in about two weeks.
COGAT shared with the journalist that the goal of the policy change is to “improve the economy in Gaza and to reduce unemployment” which stood at 41.5 percent in the second quarter of 2015.
In March of this year, Israel began allowing entrance of tomatoes and eggplants from Gaza to Israel due to the shmita year, when, according to Jewish law, agricultural lands should lie fallow for one year every seven years. Religiously observant Jews thus do not consume products grown by Jewish farmers. At the end of 2014, Israel began allowing marketing of agricultural products, furniture and textile from Gaza in the West Bank.
COGAT, like many of Israel’s senior security officials, agrees that a thriving economy in Gaza is essential for regional stability. Allowing goods from Gaza to be marketed in Israel is a necessary precondition to rehabilitating Gaza’s economy. However, marketing only two kinds of vegetables and only in specific areas and for a limited time is far from sufficient. And yet, despite an ongoing shortage of vegetables in Israeli markets, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture prefers to encourage import from Europe, rather than from neighboring Gaza.
The furniture industry in Gaza, which has tremendous potential for growth, is currently in crisis because Israel is preventing furniture manufacturers from purchasing a basic raw material – woods planks with a width of above 1 centimeter.
The Gaza Strip has many manufacturing industries that are eager to sell their goods in the Israel markets. As agreed by many, marketing of Gaza-made goods in Israel is a mutually beneficial, shared interest. Until Gaza’s manufacturing sectors in Gaza are ensured basic conditions to support and sustain themselves, the claim that limited moves like this one could improve Gaza’s economy sound more like a pipe dream.