In reality, when the entire world heard about the disengagement plan, it was seen as the best opportunity that will put an end to the years of the second Intifada and lead towards a possible Palestinian independent state. It was elementary though that the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip will not lead to the severance of the Gaza Strip from Israel with the thrust of a sword, and that a gradual process of adjustment and accommodation is required. The essence of that process was reconstructing the economic and governmental infrastructures in the Gaza Strip and ensuring its viability in a way that allows its independent existence apart from Israel, or at least with less dependence on Israel.

I.- Pre disengagement: In September 2000, after a relatively quite and peaceful period of 7 years following the Oslo Accords, the conflict took a new turn of violence and blood giving space for a second Intifada against Israel. Since then all peace negotiations were halted, fight renewed. But Israel was and in a way still is the party that dictates the rules of the game in the area: Israel imposed closures (a multi-faceted system of restrictions on the movement of goods and people) designed to protect Israelis in Israel itself and in the settlements over the Palestinian land. Israel also resumed assassinations of people in the Palestinian resistance, killed civilians, applied curfews, invaded cities and villages, demolished homes, uprooted lands and closed all trade crossing points with the Palestinian territories whenever it liked. On the other hand, alimented by their hate to Israel and its occupation measures against their country, Palestinian factions conducted several Suicide Bombings in Civil Israeli areas and bombarded Israeli settlements and areas with home made rockets.

  • This article was published in ADE magazine 18, May 2006.

>Nota del Editor: El presente testimonio ha quedado en la historia de los esfuerzos realizados para desenredar el conflicto israelo-palestino, hoy agravado en su máxima expresión de violencia.

Between September 2000 and late 2002, the Palestinian economy experienced one of the deepest recessions in the modern history. The decline in real per capita income (GDP) reached almost 40% by the end of 2002. Unemployment increased from 10% of the workforce to an average of 41%. While the poverty rate rose from 20% to over 50% of the population.

In Gaza, unemployment exceeded 46% of the workforce, and the poverty level rose to 68%. Private investment and trade fell dramatically through 2001 and 2002. In June 2004, and after the failure in all the defensive and offensive measures Israel has taken against the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza strip and the West Bank, Israel announced a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza strip and Northern West Bank, justifying this step as a revival to the peace process by dismantling the settlements from The Gaza Strip and Disengagement, the Palestinian Economy and the Settlements.

The World Bank, June 23, 2004. 33 Northern West Bank to other places in Israel. But yet, the plan as described by the Israelis did not seem in anyway as an action that will ultimately end the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and lead to a sustainable peace, or a Palestinian independent state. The Israelis decided that they were unilaterally going to disengage without coordination with the Palestinians and refused to negotiate about important issues such as the border regime, the settlements’ rubble and trade because they said they do not find a reliable Palestinian partner. They assumed that the reallocation from the Gaza strip will reduce friction with the Palestinian population, and it will carry with it the potential improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions.

They also wanted to dispel the claims regarding Israel’s responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, in other words, the Israeli Government wanted to say that Gaza strip was no more under occupation. No more under occupation? That seems very difficult to believe when one reads the following quotations from the disengagement plan:

  1. “The state of Israel will monitor and supervise the outer envelope on land, will have exclusive control of the Gaza airspace, and will continue its military activity along the Gaza strip’s coastline.”
  2. “The state of Israel will continue to maintain military presence along the border between the Gaza strip and Egypt (Philadelphia route).”
  3. “If and when the conditions permit the evacuation of the area, the state of Israel will be willing to consider the possibility of setting up an airport and a seaport in the Gaza strip, subject to arrangements agreed upon with the state of Israel.”

II.- Post Disengagement and Status Quo:

It has been almost three months after the disengagement took place. The situation in Gaza changed quite notably since then. It has improved in certain areas and worsened in other ones as described in the following:

  1. The Rafah Border (the Philadelphia route):
    The Rafah border was to be opened within weeks after the disengagement, under Palestinian control with the presence of an International third party. The Israelis withdrew from the Philadelphia route without passing the security of the area to Palestinian and Egyptian forces which led people to open gaps in the border between the strip and Egypt and flow in and out of Egypt without any official control from both sides for weeks. To control this problem it took the Palestinians and the Egyptians more than three weeks of time.This incident gave some people the chance to smuggle in weapons which were sold for the different factions and individuals. This led to an unbalanced situation where weapons in the hands of the factions and civilians left the Palestinian Authority unable to control the internal security and civilian lives. Later on, with a notable effort by the quartet and other international parties, an accord was reached regarding the Rafah border in which it stated that the Palestinians were to control the border with the presence of the European Union observers as a third party. The Border is to serve only Palestinian ID holders but not internationals or Palestinian refugees without a Palestinian ID. As it was decided that the border will open only for four hours a day for a short period to test the Palestinian capabilities of running the border and that the hours of daily work at the borders were to increase gradually by the time. Nowadays the Border works for 8 hours a day and it is expected to work for more hours in the coming weeks.
  2. The Economic Output and Foreign Trade:
    In Gaza, due to closures imposed on Palestinian workers during the third and fourth quarter of 2004 that continued into the first and second quarter of 2005, growth declined. The economical performance remained low, which led to higher unemployment rates specially since the private investment is depressed and the foreign investment is still not encouraged to come to the region. The economic growth in Gaza depends mainly on the resolution of border passages for goods and people. The World Bank estimates that about 150 trucks of exports need to exit Gaza on a given day to support a healthy economic activity. In September and October this year (after disengagement), the total flow was about a dozen trucks a day, down from 25 a day in the months leading up to disengagement10.On this basis, it is hard to imagine that Gaza can earn its living.
  3. Internal security and law enforcement:
    The Israeli refusal of supplying the Palestinian security forces with weapons and ammunition, and the smuggled weapons in the hands of different factions and criminal groups created an insecure situation for civilians to live in. Higher crime rates were witnessed in the past three months; rockets are still being fired against Israel even after the withdrawal of Israel. Internal disputes are causing more fatalities, people and foreigners are being kidnapped to be used as bargain chips while the Palestinian Authority stands powerless and unable to control the situation.

West Bank and Gaza Update, The World Bank quarterly publication, November 2005. I believe that the Palestinians can benefit from the disengagement even though the lawlessness that spread all over the strip after the disengagement and the economic stagnation in the past few years hardly leaves any space for optimism. The Palestinian Authority is facing a hard challenge at this stage fighting lawlessness and maintaining internal security, but success can still be achieved by a national consent to facilitate the Palestinian Authority’s efforts.

The disengagement after all, can be a first step towards an independent Palestinian state, but it needs more efforts from the Palestinians and more cooperation from the Israelis.

  1. Nuha Hashim Abu Nada: Graduated at the University of Chicago Law School. Master of Laws (2003-2004). Currículum vitae: Sección Quién es Quién en el Mundo Diplomático.



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