Gisha response to Cabinet announcement allowing limited Gaza “export”

Gisha expresses hope that today’s Israeli Cabinet decision will be a harbinger of removing the restrictions on the transfer of civilian goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, in order to allow its residents to engage in dignified, productive work.

We are concerned by reports that Israel will continue to prevent residents of Gaza from marketing products to private, unaffiliated buyers in the West Bank, as well as to merchants in Israel – with no apparent security justification. We recall that until Israel blocked the outgoing traffic of goods from Gaza in 2007, Israeli merchants and manufacturers would buy goods from factories in Gaza and market them in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad, to the mutual financial benefit of both Israeli and Palestinian workers.

The Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israel are part of a single "customs envelope" controlled by Israel, which sets the tariff and VAT rates in all three areas. Marketing goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel is therefore not "export" but rather trade that, under international law, can only be restricted for security reasons. That trade is critical to economic recovery for the 1.5 million people in Gaza whose ability to transfer goods is controlled by Israel.

Since 2007, Israel has closed three out of four of Gaza’s commercial crossings, creating pressure on the Kerem Shalom crossing, whose capacity is limited. Israel is currently suppressing demand for space at Kerem Shalom by banning the entrance of construction materials and the exit of outbound goods, with limited exceptions. Prior to these restrictions, each day on average, 433 trucks entered Gaza, and 70 trucks of outbound goods exited. In contrast, since June 2007, Israel has permitted just 274 truckloads of outbound goods in total, for a daily average of one-third of a truck.

Despite promises to enable the transfer of construction materials for international organizations asking to rebuild the Gaza Strip, since the "easing" in July 2010, Israel allowed the transfer of just 149 truckloads of construction materials (gravel, steel, and cement) on average per month, in comparison to over 5,000 trucks with these materials per month prior to June 2007 (approximately 3% of need). Israel has approved just 7% of UNRWA’s plan for rebuilding and reconstructing Gaza, and even for these approved projects, permission to transfer the building materials is delayed.

In its report from September 2010, the International Monetary Fund noted that unless the restrictions on export to markets outside Gaza, including Israel, are removed, and unless the ban on construction materials is removed, there will be no significant economic recovery.