Trucks at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Gaza 390 (R).
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
For the first time since 2007, Israel allowed three truckloads of furniture to travel from Gaza to the West Bank on Thursday.
The Palestinian Authority ordered the 35 tons of furniture from a Gazan factory for their West Bank schools.
The approval marks the third time this year that Israel eased its ban on Gazan goods and allowed the passage of Gazan products to the West Bank.
Earlier this month, Israel also allowed a large shipment of energy date bars produced in a Gazan factory into the West Bank, through a program organized by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
A similar shipment of date bars was sent to the West Bank in the spring.
A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that in the future Israel could consider additional exceptions to the ban on transporting goods from Gaza to the West Bank.
When Israel looks to ease the ban on Gazan goods, “we always look to help and support the West Bank,” he said.
He cautioned, however, that these were moderate steps that were dependent on security considerations and the overall situation in general in Gaza and the West Bank.
The passage of the furniture, he said, is possible in part because of a new scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Until Hamas’s violent coup of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, 85 percent of the territory’s outgoing goods went to Israel and the West Bank, according to Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
Since 2007, Israel has banned the sale of Gazan goods to Israel and the West Bank, said Gisha’s executive director Sari Bashi Bashi said that she was not encouraged by the recent exceptions. The shipments of date bars and furniture fall short of what is needed, which is for the Gaza ban on goods entering Israel and the West Bank to be lifted entirely, she said.
“We do not need exceptions,” Bashi said. “We need goods to travel regularly out of Gaza [for Israel and the West Bank] subject only to security considerations.”
The Gazan economy can only improve if the private sector can flourish. The ability to transport goods to Israel and the West Bank is critical for the private business sector in Gaza, she said.
While thousands of truckloads of goods and gas enter Gaza from Israel, very few trucks exit the strip with goods for sale, Bashi said.
Since 2007, fewer than 30 truckloads of Gazan goods have been sent to the West Bank, she said. All the goods were part of projects sponsored by governments or international organizations, and did not represent private business initiatives, Bashi said.
Most of the Gazan exports, 34 truckloads a month, are sent to Europe, she said.