According to media reports, the ceasefire agreement reached yesterday between Israel and the de facto Hamas authorities in the Strip is essentially a return to the agreement reached in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in late 2014. In the four-plus years since the ceasefire was reached, there has been a gaping chasm between Israel’s official rhetoric and its actions on the ground in Gaza. Israeli officials pay lip service to the difficult situation and the need for economic recovery in the Strip, while harsh restrictions on movement of people and goods continue in a way that renders recovery a distant dream.
The systematic, sweeping access restrictions imposed by Israel are completely unrelated to legitimate security considerations. Instead of allowing people to travel in order to trade and reach professional opportunities, to lead normal family lives, and to market goods outside the Strip, state officials face off against us in court to defend a policy whose only recognizable goal is to minimize the movement of Palestinians living under Israel’s control.
The internal Palestinian rift has led lately to additional punitive sanctions on residents of Gaza, while international aid dwindles, both of which have severe implications for basic human rights and the humanitarian situation.
Gaza residents must not be used as pawns in political struggles and their rights must be respected by all parties. The indiscriminate fire of rockets or missiles on civilian population centers is a war crime. Even in the wake of a tentative ceasefire, the ever-present possibility of further escalation underscores the necessity for change, but real, substantive change has been needed all along. Closing the gap between rhetoric and reality can’t be just a matter of staving off the next crisis; it must come out of recognition for the needs and rights of civilians. By virtue of its ongoing control over life in the Strip, Israel has a responsibility to ensure normal living conditions for Gaza residents. In order to do so, Israel must take immediate action to remove restrictions on access to and from Gaza.