Israel is busy maintaining the balance of terror with Hamas, which any errant rocket fired from the Gaza Strip could end, while at the same time ignoring the distress of the Gazans, which is directly connected to the potential for new conflict in the region.
For a year and a half now, Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been caught in a pincer movement. The Rafah border crossing in the south has been closed for 18 months, because Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi sees Hamas as aiding the terror attacks against Egypt’s forces in Sinai. Israel permits very little movement through the Erez crossing, in the north, having imposed a blockade on the Strip in 2007, when Hamas gained control. The remaining crossings into Israel are closed to human traffic, departure by sea is impossible due to the lack of a proper port and restrictions on the sailing area, and the destroyed airport is closed.
This means that most of Gaza’s inhabitants cannot come and go. Israel is particularly strict when it comes to issuing permits to young people.
Last week Egypt opened the Rafah checkpoint for three days, only for individuals entering the Gaza Strip. But that, together with greater lenience since the end of last summer’s war in issuing laissez–passers, is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. As long as Gazans cannot lead normal lives, including freedom of movement, Gaza will continue to seethe with poverty and shortages.
Jack Khoury (Haaretz Hebrew edition, June 5) tells the stories of 10 people who are trapped in the Strip. They include individuals who were accepted to colleges in the West Bank or abroad, a U.S. citizen who has been unable to return home, after coming to Gaza to attend a family funeral some six months ago, because he entered through the Rafah crossing and the head of a high-tech company who needs to leave in order to sign a crucial deal. Their requests were rejected, with various excuses, or are mired in red tape. These are not terrorists or Hamas operatives, but simply ordinary individuals who have sought to take an opportunity to better their lives.
As the controlling power of some of the crossings, Israel is responsible for the fate of Gaza’s residents. But the moral imperative should not be the only thing guiding Israel to do all it can to ease their lives. Israel’s security and strategic interests also demand this.
Any further worsening of the situation of Gaza’s population will lead to anarchy within Gaza’s government, just when Israel and Hamas have a truce agreement. To avoid this and additional international pressure, Israel must open all the checkpoints and enable people to move through them.