To read the full report, click here.

To read the position paper: “A costly divide: Economic repercussions of separating Gaza and the West Bank“, click here.

After seven difficult years of closure and following yet another round of hostilities over the summer of 2014, which took a heavy toll and left tremendous devastation, some cautious steps are being taken to rehabilitate Gaza’s economy. Dozens of countries pledged to channel billions of dollars to fund the reconstruction of Gaza. A mechanism was created to facilitate entrance of construction materials to the Strip, the need for which has obviously skyrocketed following last summer. Israel began, for the first time in seven years, to allow the marketing of products from Gaza to the West Bank, and has somewhat expanded the criteria for travel of people to and from the Gaza Strip.

As the months have gone by, it has become clear that even if there were good intentions behind the attempts at and declarations of changes to policy, too little is actually happening on the ground. Until now, the approval mechanism for entrance of construction materials has dealt only with private homes that were damaged, not those destroyed; reconstruction work has not yet begun on large residential buildings or civilian infrastructure, such as clinics and schools, and the funding for reconstruction is coming in at a trickle; marketing to the West Bank is still limited and constrained; access to the Israeli market for agricultural produce during the religiously-ordained “sabbath year” or fallow (“shmita”) year may signal a change, but there is still a long way to go before a significant change can be felt on the ground. Most of the restrictions Israel imposes on the travel of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank have basically remained intact.

Well before last summer’s hostilities and the subsequent declarations of easings on marketing regulations, Gisha had planned to conduct research among leading professionals in the Gaza Strip representing various industries within the manufacturing sector. We wanted to learn about the options available to them in terms of marketing in the West Bank, if and when that was made possible, the difficulties they face, the potential of their industries and their hopes and aspirations for the future.

We held five focus groups, each one consisting of representatives of one of the following industries: furniture, food processing, agriculture, textile, and information and communications technology (ICT). The five industries vary in customs, skill levels and types, experiences and challenges. They all share the need for access beyond the boundaries of the Gaza Strip in order to rebuild their sector, develop, recover and grow. The seven plus years of disconnection from the West Bank have severely harmed the Palestinian economy, especially in Gaza, and the ability of these entrepreneurs to establish themselves and develop in their respective fields. Even if all movement restrictions were lifted, these sectors would still face the substantial challenges of re-adapting to markets, meeting needs that have since been fulfilled by other sources, rebuilding and building networks of relationships in need of repair and development, and redoubling efforts to gain the knowledge and the trust of buyers and investors.

The gates have certainly not been opened entirely. The permission to market goods outside of Gaza remains defined by various considerations: security, professional and procedural. Not all industries are allowed to market in the West Bank, and not all products in the permitted industries can be marketed. There is still a long road ahead. The conversations in the focus groups indicated the participants’ eagerness to take part in the development of the Palestinian economy and a process that will increase revenues and especially employment opportunities, business and personal relationships and development opportunities – all the things that are stifled by suffocating travel restrictions.

Our research sought to assess the economic potential of leading industries in the Gaza Strip – once marketing to the West Bank has been permitted – and review the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing that potential.

To read the full report, click here.