World Bank: Israel Vowed Not to Block Gaza Cargo

The Israeli government has promised in writing not to prevent cargo from entering and leaving the Gaza Strip, regardless of the security situation inside Israel, according to a paper prepared by the World Bank for a conference of donor nations that will take place in London on Wednesday.

The paper states that during negotiations with James Wolfensohn, the Quartet's envoy for the disengagement, Israel submitted a non-paper in which it stated that the Karni Checkpoint, which is the principal cargo terminal between Israel and Gaza, "shall operate in an uninterrupted manner in order to facilitate the transit of cargo and goods. The crossing will not be shut down completely unless situations arise which pose a security threat to the crossing, to people in its area, or when it is suspected it may be used as a passage for security threats."

In the non-paper, Israel also promised never to close the Erez and Karni Checkpoints at the same time unless there is a simultaneous security threat to both checkpoints, or there is reason to believe that both checkpoints may be used as a passage for security threats simultaneously. Erez is the main crossing for people moving between Gaza and Israel.

Both the World Bank's paper and an American working paper drafted for the London conference demand that if Israel does need to close Karni for some reason, it must allow cargo to be sent through Erez instead, so as to avoid a situation in which Gaza is completely cut off. Similarly, the papers demand that Israel allow people to move through Karni if it needs to close Erez for any reason.

The U.S. paper proposes similar arrangements for the crossings between Israel and the West Bank (Jalameh, Tarqumiya and Tul Karm): If one of the crossings has to be closed for security reasons, another will be opened in its place. The paper also proposes that neither side be able to close the crossings because of a holiday more than 10 days per year.

The American paper suggests that every terminal have both an Israeli and a PA liaison officer, as well as an ombudsman to deal with complaints about the terminal's operation.

Regarding the Rafah crossing, on the Gaza-Egypt border, the World Bank paper says that arrangements at this terminal relate solely to the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, and Israel should not be allowed to intervene in the terminal's management in any way.

The World Bank document also notes the Palestinian Authority's objection to Erez's current location, which is on the pre-1967 border. A few months ago, the Palestinians announced that according to maps in their possession, the border between Israel and Gaza should be a few hundred meters further north.

Meanwhile, despite demands from the United States and the other members of the Quartet that Israel immediately begin allowing convoys to run between Gaza and the West Bank, the Defense Ministry said yesterday that last week's cabinet's decision - to freeze negotiations with the PA on this issue until the PA starts taking action against the terrorist organizations - still stands. However, it said, internal Israeli discussions on various unresolved aspects of this issue have resumed.

Under the Rafah crossing agreement, the convoys were supposed to begin on December 15.