January 1, 2020. Israel’s security cabinet convened today to discuss what has been portrayed in various media outlets as “civilian easings,” that is, measures to be implemented by Israel as part of a “settlement” or long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas.
Improving the living conditions of Gaza’s two million residents, half of whom are children, is an urgent imperative but “easings” and “gestures” are nowhere near enough. The rights of Gaza’s civilian population must no longer be used as bargaining chips. Israel must recognize its obligations towards residents of Gaza, derived from more than 50 years of control over the Strip and, among other things, the systemic restrictions it imposes over movement of Palestinians. Movement restrictions have led to massive de-development, have worsened humanitarian conditions and impaired humanitarian relief, and are the driver of routine human rights violations. Respective Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Egypt and the international community have played a role in Gaza’s deterioration, but this does not detract from Israel’s responsibilities to respect the rights of Palestinians in Gaza and facilitate normal life at all times and without conditions.
Israel continues to use its control over movement and over the Palestinian population registry to deepen the separation between Gaza and the West Bank as part of a conscious policy. This policy, referred to openly by Israel as the “separation policy,” serves broader political goals, including Israel’s desire to maintain control and even annex the West Bank while maintaining Gaza’s isolation.
Draconian restrictions imposed as part of Israel’s isolation of Gaza have thwarted economic activity in the Strip, split Palestinian families and society apart and blocked access to livelihood, education, and adequate healthcare.
Rather than making minor modifications to sweeping restrictions on movement of people and goods, Israel should immediately allow travel and transit of goods subject only to individual security checks. Real, sustainable change in Gaza can only be achieved by overturning the logic of Israel’s policy, a logic designed to apply deliberate pressure on the Strip’s civilian population, and giving people reason for hope and the ability to exercise their fundamental human rights.