The Truth About Gaza: There is No Limit on Exports and Imports
Quartet Representative Tony Blair Monday expressed deep concern regarding the grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, worsened by the recent storm, urging immediate intervention to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe….
Blair urged all parties to act promptly to find a lasting solution to the ongoing energy crisis and encouraged the Israeli government to take the necessary steps to reopen the crossings and allow the movement of goods and people in order to rehabilitate the Gaza economy.
On Wednesday, I visited both the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings and spoke to Israeli officials there.
I spend a lot of time reading about Gaza from Arabic and English news sources, but I learned a great deal from my meetings that I was unaware of. I hope to blog much more about it as I find time.
But there is one crucial fact about Gaza that has never been reported anywhere, as far as I can tell. And clearly, Tony Blair is unaware of this fact as well.
There is no reason whatsoever to “reopen the crossings” because Kerem Shalom can handle all of Gaza’s import and export needs.
In fact, Kerem Shalom can handle more goods than all of the closed crossings ever could – combined.
Crossings such as Nahal Oz and Karni were closed over the years because they weren’t secure. Those crossings were a tempting target for terrorists to attack. They can never re-open.
But Kerem Shalom – a hugely expansive and extraordinarily impressive feat of engineering and logistics – was sized to handle all of Gaza’s needs if necessary. And it can do it without risking any Israeli lives.
Here are all the limits of imports and exports to and from Gaza from what I learned today:
Besides a small list of “dual use” materials, Israel imposes no restrictions on Gaza imports. Even some of the “dual use” materials can be imported under certain conditions – for example, international NGOs can import construction materials. Israel allows potentally dual use items, such as CO2, to be imported on a case by case basis as well.
Some said that Gaza did not have adequate pumps to handle the flooding because of Israeli restrictions. Nonsense. I asked specifically if water pumps are a “dual use” item and they are not. This was Gaza’s government not being prepared, and nothing to do with the “blockade.”
If needed, Kerem Shalom can run on three shifts, 24/7. But today there isn’t the demand.
All Gaza imports are arranged between Gaza businessmen and NGOs, and Israeli or other suppliers. If Gazans needs more, they can buy it. There are no practical limits on how much Gaza can import even if its economy grew dramatically. No limits on fuel. No limits on raw materials for factories (again, except dual use materials.)
Kerem Shalom is building new pipelines for fuel, and increasing capacity of existing pipelines, in anticipation of a potential dramatic increase of demand as a result of Egypt’s closure of Gaza. Right now, because of Hamas and PA infighting, the demand is not there and Kerem Shalom is not using close to its full capacity for fuel.
There are also no limits imposed by Israel on how much Gaza can export. Really.
After Hamas took over Gaza, Israel decided not to import goods from Gaza anymore – for good reason. Israel also has limited exports to PA administered areas before the peace process gets moving again. But if Gazans can find markets in Europe and the U.S. and the Arab world for goods, Israel is not stopping them at all. On the contrary, Israel is helping Gaza farmers export goods.
There have been some limited attempts to export furniture, clothing, and other goods from Gaza. Right now, Gaza farmers and manufacturers are dependent on Israeli exporters and must follow international rules for exports, so there are some regulatory hurdles that must be overcome, just as with any exporter. But there is no practical limit on how much Gaza can export. (Recently, Gaza exported potatoes to Jordan, but Jordan does not want them because it wants to protect its own domestic market.)
Yes, Israel has a naval blockade on Gaza, and the law of a legal blockade is that there can be no distinction between types of ships allowed. If Israel wants to block Gaza from getting weapons – and there have been attempts to ship large amounts of weapons to Gaza by sea – then Israel must also ban commercial ships. That’s the way it is, and it cannot be changed without allowing Francops and Karine-A‘s filled with weapons to be sent to Gaza.
But Gaza does not need to import goods from the sea – because Kerem Shalom is large enough to handle all of Gaza’s needs, even if the current construction material limits are lifted.
Every single time an NGO or government calls for Israel to “lift the blockade,” they are ignoring the facts.