Thursday, August 18, 2005

❄ Palestine [I]: Access

Israel claims the right to control the borders of Gaza and the West Bank. This means that Gaza fishermen must remain inside a zone defined by Israel, that movement between Gaza and the West Bank is Israeli-controlled, and that all Palestinian trade must pass through Israeli controls. Moreover, Israel destroyed the Palestinians’ international airport after the onset of the Second Intafada. Israel asserts that these controls are necessary for its security. But the effect of the controls is to deny Palestinians economic security and freedom to come and go.

Disputes about access pose some of the most intriguing problems in political design. In the case of Israel and Palestine, results of the 1967 war are the basis for Israeli claims to sovereignty and border control far beyond its pre-war bounds. A distinction can be made between the pre-war line separating Israel from the West Bank [about which sovereignty would imply no doubt concerning Israel’s right to control entry (subject to the reservation that Palestinian rights to return remain contested)] and the external borders separating Gaza and the West Bank from other states and from non-Israeli waters and airspace.

The Question

Could Israel be brought to accept that it is more in its interest to enable normal Palestinian movement than to insist that the ‘risks’ to its security require enforced controls?


A viable Palestinian economy requires, of course, a stable area not subject to an Israeli claim it may destroy what it chooses. Given Israeli non-intervention, there are four further requirements: free access to the sea to and from Gaza, international air access, freedom to import and export across land borders, and one or more effective connections between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestine, not Israel, would set and administer the rules governing its side of the borders. On the Gaza-West Bank connection, for example, there are proposals to construct a road or rail corridor, elevated, depressed, or on the surface. [1]

Delicate negotiations are taking place with respect to Israeli controls, including controls on movement to and from Israel. Israel’s departure from Gaza, however, does not imply an end to the controls boxing the Gaza rectangle. Nor, at this juncture, is there evidence Israel is prepared to give up,in any respect, its claim of a residual right to govern movement. Instead, Israel retains the ‘unilateral high ground’ by exercising physical control, which no international body is ready to contest by force.

Would it be unjust, for example, to argue that Israel’s freedom to trade with the world should be no greater than that of the Palestinians? Or that Israeli aircraft should have no greater freedom of access to international airports than Israel acknowledges the Palestinians may enjoy?

Should a ‘democracy’ representing ‘the free world’ reward Israel by budgetary subventions while Israel controls Palestinian freedom of movement?

The Political Design Problem

Is there some mix of incentives and disincentives, or guarantees and provisions, or smart constructs, which could shift the balance between ‘interest’ and ‘risk’ to the side of interest?


[1] Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). Gaza-West Bank Passage.

[2] US Embassy. London. “Wolfensohn Reviews Gaza Development Plans after Israeli Withdrawal.”  26 July 2005

[3] Agence France Presse. “Access to West Bank vital for Gaza economy: Wolfensohn”nbsp;  3 August 2005

[4] Mustafa Barghouthi, “Make sure ‘Gaza first’ is not ‘Gaza last’ ”. Op-ed. International Herald Tribune, 19 August 2005.

[Political Design 2005.08.17 Post A09. Cite 4: 2005.08.19.]


Post a Comment

<< Home