There are three different governments in this land, and all three are absolutely sure that Western nations and Arab countries will continue to pay for food packages for the million and a half residents of the Gaza Strip for an unlimited period of time.
That is the only explanation for the continued closure of the Karni Crossing, the single transfer point for goods to and from Gaza for the last two and a half months. This is the only way to explain why the three governments - Israel, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza - are not taking seriously the solutions proposed by the Palestinian private sector to operate Karni privately with outside help.
It is still possible to transfer food, medicine and a small amount of raw materials through the Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings. But the vast majority of the raw materials needed to continue production in Gaza and all of the products intended for sale outside of Gaza can only pass through Karni. And when Karni is closed, almost all production shuts down completely.
In the first two months of the closure, according to PalTrade, the Palestine Trade Center, the direct damage to local industry amounted to $8 million in the furniture sector, $15 million in textiles and $3 million in foodstuffs. The losses to agriculture reached $16 million.
The shortage of raw materials has halted 95 percent of all construction, which is valued at $160 million. About 85 percent of all industry is closed down temporarily and 70,000 workers have been laid off.
The three governments are disregarding common sense, reflected in the question asked by Salah Ayash of the Gaza textile industry: "Why should I ask for handouts when I am capable of supporting myself?"
Using economic power to maintain control is nothing new. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Israeli policy of impoverishment has only become more sophisticated and widespread. It has always been based on the knowledge that the Western world will subsidize it and compensate for the damage the Israeli government causes.
Israeli officials claim that Mahmoud Abbas asked to keep Karni closed. His people, of course, deny this - as expected. Gaza businessmen think this Israeli claim is not true, but still believe that Abbas is not making any effort to open Karni.
In any case, Israel is not waiting for orders from Abbas to open or close crossings. Israel has its own considerations, which converge with those of the government in Ramallah: In Jerusalem and in Ramallah they are convinced that the policy of impoverishment will make the population of Gaza disown Hamas and bring about its fall.
The Israeli government also does not care about the immediate damage caused to numerous Israelis in the private sector from the closure of Karni. For example, textile manufacturers have been dependent on Gaza workshops for decades. They are too unimportant for anyone to listen to them, but they are causing a chain reaction of damage to sewing workshop owners, workers, drivers and small shop owners.
Every day Israeli industry loses $2.2 million from the closure of Karni, according to what Shraga Brosh, the president of the Manufacturers' Association, said two weeks ago.
There is also long-term damage, according to Brosh. The chances of successful economic cooperation with Gaza subcontractors or the sale of Israeli products in Gaza are also in danger. But all this, and the tens of thousands of Israelis hurt by these policies, are small change compared to the political goal of defeating Hamas.
Hamas knows how to lead prayers in the mosques but does not know what economics is, explained one textile workshop owner. But it is probably more accurate to say that the Hamas government is convinced that the policy of impoverishment will actually strengthen its position among most of the Palestinian public, and draw it closer to uncompromising ideological positions and pan-Islamic power centers: Not just because of the many charitable organizations that Hamas established, but also because experience teaches us that people will accuse two other governments: Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which is increasingly considered to be a lackey of the U.S.
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