Israel has initiated a new policy towards Gaza, a policy that will greatly improve the lives of the residents of the Strip.
If in the past Israel regulated the entry of goods by publishing a list of items permitted into the Gaza Strip, Israel has now cancelled that practice. In its place, Israel published (6 July 2010) a limited list of forbidden items, designed solely to prevent the entry of weapons and materiel that could help the Hamas terror regime strike at Israeli citizens. The significance of this policy is that all but a limited number of goods deemed dangerous are now permitted. While there was no lack of humanitarian aid in Gaza in the past, the types of materials allowed in have been expanded exponentially.
Israel has also decided to expand the operations of the crossing points, meaning that the volume of goods entering Gaza will also increase drastically. Steps have already been taken to bolster the facilities and capacities at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main conduit for goods. Immediately following the government decision (20 June), the number of trucks crossing per day increased from an average of 80-90 to the present average of 150 trucks. After completing necessary construction activities, Israel is planning to raise the number of trucks to 250, while by the first half of 2011, it is estimated that some 400 truckloads will cross Kerem Shalom daily.
In addition, Israel decided to expand the flow of construction material into Gaza, as long as they are used for Palestinian Authority-authorized projects that are implemented and supervised by the international community. In the coming months, Israel expects to see 45 active projects in the Gaza Strip, in the sectors of education, health, infrastructure in sewage and water, and later on, housing. Israel hopes to increase cooperation and coordination with the Palestinian Authority in order to strengthen its involvement in Gaza activities.
Concurrent with Israel’s actions to improve conditions in Gaza, it also has to act to defend its own civilian population. Israel must supervise the entry into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip of goods and materials that could pose a danger to Israeli citizens. Given that Hamas is a terrorist organization (recognized as such by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and that Hamas remained dedicated to the destruction of Israel, these controls are necessary.
Israel’s new list of controlled items is limited to weapons, war materiel and duel-use items. The first category of items includes arms, munitions and missile equipment that are forbidden to cross into Gaza under all circumstances. The second category is that of dual-use goods and items that could be deployed - alongside their civilian purposes - for the development, production, installation or enhancement of terrorist capabilities. Examples of dual-use materials are chemicals and certain fertilizers that may also be used in the production of explosives.
Israel’s guiding principle is to keep weapons, combat support measures, and terrorist operatives from entering and exiting Gaza, while letting in civilian goods and humanitarian aid that cannot be used for purposes of terrorism. The policy of liberalizing the entry of civilian goods into Gaza is meant to enable the civilian population to engage in routine activity, while simultaneously preventing the entry of weapons and materiel that could facilitate Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians.
At the same time that Israel is taking dramatic steps to assist the civilian population of Gaza, it must be remembered that the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held illegally by Hamas. The international community should redouble its efforts to secure his immediate release.