Entry of goods into Gaza via Kerem Shalom
Between 2007, when Israel tightened restrictions on movement of people and goods to the point of full closure, and until 2010, when the flotilla incident occurred, Israel banned most civilian goods from entering Gaza. Israel kept lists, which were not published at the time, of items it permitted to enter the Strip. All materials and items that did not appear on the list, at any given time, were prohibited, including items like construction materials, raw materials for industry and civilian infrastructure, as well as items Israel considered to be “luxuries” such as spices, paper, toys, and chocolate. Following public criticism, in June 2010, Israel’s Security Cabinet issued a plan ostensibly designed to allow civilian goods to enter the Strip, whereby a list would be kept of items forbidden for entry.
Today, Israel allows everyday goods to enter Gaza but still severely restricts and often forbids entirely the entry of items it defines as “dual-use.” The dual-use list contains civilian goods that are vital for industry, construction and other expressly civilian needs, which Israel believes could potentially be used for military purposes. The list is long but also vague, including broad categories such as “communications equipment.” Dual-use items are not officially prohibited from entering Gaza, but the coordination process for bringing items in is complicated and non-transparent, obstructing the operations of international humanitarian organizations, not to mention private companies.
Since 2010, Israel expanded Kerem Shalom to meet growing demand, which followed a more permissive goods policy. The crossing now has the capacity to process up to 1,000 trucks per day (not including fuel and gas), but fewer actually transit in practice due to ongoing restrictions and weak purchasing power in the Strip.
Applications to coordinate entrance of dual-use materials are mostly submitted through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), established in late 2014 as a temporary coordination system to support reconstruction following Operation Protective Edge. The GRM involves Israeli-PA cooperation under United Nations’ supervision. The GRM website lists thousands of applications (currently close to 15,000) to coordinate the entry of dual-use materials, including cement, medical equipment, fertilizers for farming, and wood planks. In practice, the mechanism allows Israel to individually monitor the use of dual-use items it allows into Gaza, giving it even greater control inside the Strip.
The list of dual-use items has gotten longer over time, and the delays, shortages and lack it engenders in vital goods have hindered both delivery of aid and economic development. Two sectors that have been particularly affected are the agriculture and fishing sectors, which struggle to bring in materials like fertilizers and fishing equipment, respectively.
Exit of goods from Gaza via Kerem Shalom
In the first half of 2007, about 85 percent of the goods shipped out of Gaza were marketed in Israel and the West Bank. In June 2007, Israel banned all exit of goods from Gaza, allowing only extremely limited export of agricultural produce to Europe as part of a Dutch government-sponsored project. The lack of access to Gaza’s natural markets in Israel and the West Bank was a key factor in Gaza’s economic collapse, shutting down businesses and factories and creating soaring unemployment, which, in turn, have resulted in growing reliance on humanitarian aid, widespread poverty, and food insecurity.
Between June 2007 and October 2014, only about 14 truckloads of goods exited Gaza per month on average, mostly with produce going abroad. This constituted a mere one percent of the monthly average of truckloads that exited the Strip in the first months of 2007.
In November 2014, for the first time in seven years, Israel approved limited exit of agricultural produce from Gaza to the West Bank. Later, permission was given for exit of other types of produce (some types of produce are still banned), as well as textile, furniture and then later additional items. Since March 2015, Israel has also permitted limited sale of tomatoes and eggplants from Gaza to its own territory. Today, Israel also allows textile, furniture and scrap metal from Gaza to be sold in Israel. In 2019, 262 truckloads of goods exited Gaza via Kerem Shalom on average per month, a marked improvement from 2007-2014, yet still only about a quarter of what exited prior to 2007. Ongoing restrictions on the exit of goods from the Strip, especially to Israel and the West Bank, continue to hamper economic activity, let alone sustainable economic development.