September 26, 2018. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) will hold its semi-annual meeting tomorrow in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. A World Bank report to the AHLC published ahead of the meeting cites deteriorating conditions in the Strip since the closure on the Strip was tightened in 2007 and expresses concern over the potentially imminent collapse of Gaza’s economy. Alongside the unprecedented unemployment rate, which reached 53.7 percent in the second quarter of 2018 and 71.1 percent among young people, purchasing power has seen a sharp decline, including because of the Palestinian Authority’s economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip. The United States’ defunding of the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees and other aid cuts threaten to further harm the most vulnerable populations and lead to more job cuts.
Gaza’s water, electricity and sanitation infrastructure as well as its healthcare system face exceptional challenges. As Gisha has repeatedly warned in recent years, Gaza’s already deficient infrastructure is under constant risk of collapse. Steps toward meaningful progress do not appear to be on the horizon, meanwhile the implications for public health and the environment are known to all. In previous sessions held by the AHLC, Israel agreed to advance a plan for Gaza’s “humanitarian reconstruction,” and yet, it continues to disregard its obligations and responsibility for the devastating conditions in the Strip.
The World Bank clarifies in its report that injecting money into Gaza will not be sufficient to save the economy in its current state. The report urges taking broader measures to encourage growth, particularly by creating more jobs. While there are jobs available now inside Israel, Gaza residents cannot access them. Gaza’s economic free fall, as the World Bank describes it, is largely the result of political decisions made by all parties involved in the region. The authorities in Ramallah and Gaza, Egypt, the international community and Israel are engaging in political theater at the expense of Gaza’s two million residents and in violation of their rights. Gaza residents must not be used as political pawns. All parties must strive not just to stave off disaster but to work together towards a better, more just future for everyone in the region.
A fundamental prerequisite for jump-starting Gaza’s economy is, first and foremost, the lifting of blanket restrictions Israel places on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza – restrictions that have nothing to do with legitimate security needs. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without allowing entrance of items needed to build and maintain civilian infrastructure, permission to sell and export goods, facilitating revitalization of industries and the farming and fishing sectors, and lifting restrictions on the movement of people.
The following are Gisha’s recommendations for concrete policy changes that could be implemented today and which would have an immediate and direct effect on the well-being of Palestinian residents of Gaza and the Palestinian economy.
Gisha calls on the Government of Israel to adopt a policy of expanding access to and from Gaza to the maximum possible degree, subject to individual and reasonable security checks, with an emphasis on:
- Ending the separation policy and allowing Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, including for educational opportunities and professional development.
- Allowing exit of goods from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank.
- Allowing the entry of building materials and other inputs needed for construction and industry into Gaza.
- Allowing entrance of laborers to Israel. Since 2014, Israeli officials have been discussing quotas of between 5,000-6,000 laborer permits. Travel was completely banned for laborers in early 2006, however, prior to that, more than 26,000 laborers from Gaza entered Israel for work.
- Ensuring safe and reasonable access to the sea and to lands along the perimeter fence for Gaza’s fishing, farming, and herding sectors.
- Actively taking part in resolving Gaza’s energy crisis, including by fulfilling pledges made at recent AHLC meetings.