Two trucks of date bars for schoolchildren reach West Bank.

For the first time in five years, Israel allowed sale of goods from Gaza to the West Bank. Two trucks carrying date bars traveled from Gaza to the West Bank today as part of a program by the World Food Program to feed Palestinian schoolchildren. The permission, which is supposed to include 13 trucks in total, is the first exception to a sweeping ban, imposed by Israel in June 2007, on transferring goods from Gaza to markets in Israel and the West Bank.

The ban on selling goods to Israel and the West Bank, where 85% of Gaza’s outgoing goods were sold prior to 2007, has contributed to the collapse of Gaza’s economy. Approximately 83% of Gaza’s factories are idle or operating at 50% or less capacity, because their natural markets are blocked.

According to Sari Bashi, Gisha Director: “This is an important step toward fulfilling the Israeli government’s commitment to allow economic development for Palestinians living in Gaza. The question is whether this is a one-time gesture to the WFP or a change in policy. If marketing goods to the West Bank can be approved once, why can’t it be allowed on a routine basis”?

Since the start of the year, Israel has allowed an average of two truckloads of goods to leave Gaza each day, compared with 86 truckloads per day in the first half of 2007. Until this week, all export was limited to markets abroad, where demand is low and transportation costs are high. Since 2007, all export from Gaza has been subsidized by European countries, with the exception of one attempt to export tomatoes to Saudi Arabia that resulted in financial losses for the exporter.

Export from Gaza takes place via Kerem Shalom, the only one of Gaza’s four commercial crossings that Israel has not closed. Permission was granted to the WFP after six months of negotiations with the Israeli authorities.

For current information about the civilian closure of Gaza, click here.

For graphs detailing export from Gaza click here.