Gisha: What Is the „Separation Policy“ – An Info Sheet
What is the “separation policy”?
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 businesspeople. 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 October 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 the only explanation ever given is that it is intended to "pressure Hamas and support the Palestinian Authority". It remains unclear whether there is a well-defined and carefully considered policy that carries this title. If so, 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.
The document contains three parts: Part A deals with restrictions on transfer of goods, particularly the sweeping prohibition on marketing goods from Gaza in Israel and the West Bank; Part B deals with restrictions on travel to and from the Gaza Strip and illustrates the two guiding principles of these restrictions, minimizing the number of people who are eligible for travel and preventing Gaza residents from settling in the West Bank, and; Part C looks at the economic, political and security implications of the “separation policy”, relying on the opinions of various experts.
The policy that emerges from the three parts is one that has far-reaching implications, raises more than a few questions and has not been well-documented or discussed in the media or among security, economy and legal professionals. We hope to help bring the “separation policy” up for public and parliamentary debate in the framework of which it would be weighed against alternatives for regulating civilian movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that both allow Gaza’s residents to lead normal lives and enjoy economic development and safeguard Israel’s security interests.
Gisha’s position is that Israel is responsible for allowing civilian access between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which it has officially recognized as a single territorial unit. It must avoid restrictions on movement that are not connected to concrete security objectives, those that disproportionately harm the civilian population or deny residents of the Gaza Strip the ability to lead normal lives and engage in economic development.