AN IPCRI POLICY BRIEF
The Gaza-West Bank Passage
A Review of Options and
Monday, July 04, 2005
Purpose of this Document
The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been
defined by the Oslo agreements are one territorial unit. The Israeli
disengagement from Gaza requires designing a means for a physical link between
the two areas. The link is essential for the economic survival and development
of the Gaza Strip and politically will help to ensure that the disengagement
from Gaza will not be disengaged from the determination of the permanent status
of the West Bank. The immediate economic needs and realities require taking
steps that are easy and economically cost-wise to implement. These initial
steps do not have to determine the permanent passage between the two areas. The
most immediate need is to ensure the ability of goods to move relatively freely
between Gaza and the West Bank.
The IPCRI-Konrad Adenauer
Israeli-Palestinian economics working group met to consider the short and
longer term options and possibilities for the Gaza-West Bank passage following
the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The group reviewed all of the main
suggested proposals for the passage and came to several conclusions regarding
what should be undertaken immediately in order to retain and to implement a
policy of territorial integrity.
The following are the main issues of relevance
in discussing the main possibilities for the passage:
The issue of sovereignty of the passage
The issue of security
The issue of costs
The environmental impacts of the various
The issue of the time necessary to implement
any particular option
The Main Conclusions
The issue of sovereignty is a permanent
status issue and therefore cannot be dealt with properly within the
limitations of the immediate need to ensure the connectivity of the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank. The issue of sovereignty and rights for the passage must
be dealt with in the framework of future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Any dedicated route which is for the
exclusive use of the Palestinians cutting through Israel will take a long
period to implement in order to overcome the many legal hurdles of the Israeli
zoning restrictions, political considerations and the objections of the
environmentalists in Israel (beyond any other objections that would be raised
by the security services).
The most immediate need for the passage is
economic and must provide rapid solutions for the unimpeded movement of goods
between the two territories.
The movement of people and vehicles is more
complex due to the security and political issues and will take more time to
find suitable solutions that will be agreeable to all parties.
Any immediate solutions that can be
implemented rapidly may not necessarily be the same solutions devised for the
long-run once Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will be underway on this issue.
If Gaza becomes a separate economic zone
detached from the common customs envelope with Israel, the movement of goods
from Gaza to the West Bank will require a customs stations at the crossing
between Gaza and Israel even though the end station of the goods will be the
West Bank because the West Bank is likely to remain within the common customs
The Gaza-West Bank passage compromises the
security barrier that Israel is attempted to construct with the separation
barrier being constructed around the West Bank and surrounding Gaza.
Our main recommendation is that a rail link of
about 1.5 kilometers between Erez and Zikim be constructed that will link Gaza
to the Israeli rail system. Once moving on the Israeli system goods could
travel to Ashdod, Ben Gurion airport, and other points in Israel. With minor
infrastructure developments movement to other West Bank
points could easily be developed including a linkage to Tulkarem. The most
logical connection would be an additional rail link from Kiryat Gat to Tarqumieh
which is about a distance of 25 kilometers. This is the cheapest and fasted
way of ensuring the movement of goods between the
West Bank and Gaza.
A security checking facility able to scan
containers would be set up in Erez. Containers would be sealed and loaded onto
the trains for transshipment to the West Bank.
In the future it could be possible to discuss
how the train link could be used to transport vehicles and people between the
West Bank and
Gaza. Once the rail link connections are in
place, dedicated trains could be placed on the rails that would transport
directly between Gaza and the West Bank
without any stops in between.
The Other Options – Passages for the Mid and
These options include the possibilities for the
linking of infrastructures for gas, electricity and water.
The other options discussed included the
The “depressed road” – five-ten meters deep,
100 meters wide, uncovered, is estimated that it would take a minimum of three
years to complete at a cost of $150 million. Supported by the security in
Israel, strongly opposed to by the environmentalists.
The “elevated road” – 5-6 years to complete
at a cost of $1,250 million. Supported by the politicians in Israel, rejected
by the Israeli security, opposed by the environmentalists, involves some
engineering and operation difficulties.
The tunnel – 6-7 years to complete at a cost
of $1,250 million. Supported by the Israeli and Palestinian politicians, not
supported by the Israeli security, supported by the environmentalists,
involves some engineering and operational difficulties.
The surface road – 1-2 years at a cost of
$100 million. Rejected by the Israeli politicians, rejected by the Israeli
security, not supported by the environmentalists. This option is most favored
by the Palestinians.
Any possible combinations of the above
mention options – this requires further study and investigation.