Some hope in the middle of chaos in Gaza?

01.05.2006

Even the most cynical of observers might not have imagined the situation in Gaza could have deteriorated as quickly and as badly as it has.  After the initial euphoria over the removal of the settlements and the handing over of control to the Palestinian Authority (PA), we then had the (seemingly) seminal development of Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s successful intervention in the negotiations over the opening up of crossing points from Gaza to Israel.  Since that pivotal moment, things have gone downhill precipitously. 

In the midst of all of this chaos, I came across two interesting articles — one substantive, one speculative.  The first discusses the decision by the government of Turkey to manage the Erez industrial zone in Gaza.  Having visited a couple of such industrial zones in Jordan, I know that they can have a substantial positive impact on an economy of the size and nature of that in Gaza.  Presumably, goods manufactured in such an industrial zone would be allowed entry into the EU, U.S., and perhaps other regional countries on a duty free basis.  The Jerusalem Post story from yesterday talks about myriad benefits for all parties to the deal, but highlights a security benefit that is quite relevant to the current situation: 

According to Israeli officials, the Palestinians stand to benefit because the project may create thousands of jobs and provide a badly needed boost to Gaza’s failing economy… [whereas]… Israel would benefit both because it was in Israel’s interest to see the Palestinian economy in Gaza develop independently, and because the project would provide “soft security” for the area since the PA would have a great deal of incentive in ensuring that terror attacks were neither launched from Erez nor took place there.

The second Jerusalem Post article was authored by Gershon Baskin, co-CEO of the Israeli-Palestine Center for Research and Information, which (in the interest of full-disclosure) happens to be one of our partners in the region.  Baskin suggests a new approach to dealing with security issues in Gaza might be in order.  He explains the utility and advantages of utilizing positive economic incentives, notably providing closure-proof (i.e., guaranteed free transit) work permits and other mechanisms to ensure the free movement of people, goods, and services when there are successful steps taken by the PA or other Palestinian entities to eliminate security threats to Israel. 

Granted, in the current turbulent climate, it is very difficult to imagine any such announcements or policy changes having much of an impact — or even a chance to succeed.  However, if the PA can somehow finally begin to exert control over Gaza and create a semblence of security and stability, perhaps developments and ideas such as these can have the opportunity to improve the lives of the residents of Gaza.  Now we just need to solve the security crisis…