AN IPCRI POLICY BRIEF

 

The Gaza-West Bank Passage

A Review of Options and Recommendations

 

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.

 

 

Background

 

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 Main Conclusions

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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).

 

  1. The most immediate need for the passage is economic and must provide rapid solutions for the unimpeded movement of goods between the two territories.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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 envelope.

 

  1. 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. 

 

 

 

Main Recommendation

 

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 Longer Term

 

These options include the possibilities for the linking of infrastructures for gas, electricity and water.

 

The other options discussed included the following:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Any possible combinations of the above mention options – this requires further study and investigation.