In June of 2010, the Israeli government decided, in a formal Security Cabinet decision, to make changes to its policy of closure on the Gaza Strip, which had been in effect since Hamas took over the Strip three years prior. Since the decision, there has been a gradual removal of restrictions on the transfer of goods and raw materials into the Gaza Strip and an increase in travel through Erez Crossing, particularly by business people. Agricultural export from Gaza to Europe via Israel has also increased somewhat and Egypt’s opening of the Rafah Crossing for travel has provided a route for Gaza residents to travel abroad.
Gaza is less isolated from the outside world than it was two years ago, however the road to development and economic stability in the Strip remains blocked. Gaza’s connections with Israel and the West Bank, vital for its economy and the welfare of its residents, are still subject to sweeping restrictions on movement. The two main restrictions are the prohibition on marketing goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank and the narrow criteria for travel by individuals between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. These restrictions have remained almost entirely unchanged, even after the release of Gilad Shalit from captivity in Gaza in September 2011.
When asked why these restrictions on movement remain in effect, security officials explain that they form part of the “policy of separation” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This term reappears in official statements but has never been explained: Is there a well-defined and carefully considered policy that carries this title? What are its goals? What government branch formulated it? Has it been brought for debate in any political forum – the government, the cabinet, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee?
The purpose of the following document is to provide a factual basis for a substantive discussion on the “separation policy” and its political, economic and security ramifications. Since we, like the rest of the Israeli public, do not know what the components of the separation policy are or what its purpose is, we focus here on concrete examples of uses of the term and explanations given for it by state officials. We also present a number of questions which we believe merit consideration.