Last week, reports said that Israel was planning to excuse the Palestinian Authority from paying NIS 200 million a month in fuel excise taxes as a means of preventing the PA from financial collapse – but a report on Kan News said that that was just the tip of the “gesture iceberg.” Israel is planning to institute many more such steps, including allowing the import of many more goods into Gaza.
Last month, Israel authorized the import of metal wire for use by Gaza fishermen – until now considered “dual-use” goods whose import to Gaza was prohibited. The wires are meant to enable fishermen to strengthen their nets. But there are many other dual-use goods that Israel is planning to allow into Gaza, Kan News said, including fertilizer which could be used for helping crops grow, as well as for making bombs. Other items include increased amounts of aluminum pots and pans, metal doors, and other items.
“Dual-use” goods can be used either for their stated purpose, or to construct weapons, and given its experience, Israel tends to ban the import of such goods. The change in policy is seen as one of the conditions that Israel agreed to last month, after reaching understandings with Hamas on quiet, after Gaza terror groups fired some 700 missiles at Israel in a single weekend.
Israel had agreed to a number of conditions as part of the understanding, including increasing the range fishing vessels could ply to 15 nautical miles. The range for fishing vessels had been reduced to as little as six miles. Israel also committed to allowing Qatari money into Gaza without interference, and to discuss improving infrastructure. Also agreed to by Israel, the report said, was an increase in the amount of goods Gaza could export, as well as increased numbers of merchants from Gaza who could get permits to enter Israel. Five thousand such permits will be issued, the report said.
For the first time in years, the report said, the unemployment rate in Gaza has fallen below 50%. It now stands at 46.3%, with new jobs created as a result of increased levels of cheaper electricity, as well as donations and loans from the U.N. for businesses.
Many of the Gaza gestures were instituted in recent weeks, the report said, but Hamas has yet to take advantage of many; of the 5,000 merchant permits issued, only 3,300 are active; instead of the 100 trucks exporting goods that will be allowed out of Gaza to the Ashdod port or Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron, only 30 are leaving.
On the Gaza side, terror groups committed to ending incendiary balloon attacks. Other commitments include a reduction in the number of people at the weekly riots at the Gaza border, and keeping rioters 300 meters away from the fence.
Sharply criticizing the gestures was former Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs Yossi Kuperwasser. “The PA has objected to all economic normalization with Israel, we don’t have to give them a shekel,” the report quoted him as saying. “I do not believe these stories of the PA’s imminent financial collapse. The establishment of the PA is the greatest thing to ever happen to the Palestinian movement. They will not let it fall apart so easily. There is always the European Union, the Gulf states or banks that will bail them out. Even if the PA does collapse, that wouldn’t be ideal, but it wouldn’t be such a tragedy for us.”