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24 May 2018

Gaza-West Bank free passage route might give Palestinians hope

By: Daoud Kuttab
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If there is anything that the world has learned from the brutal Israeli killings against unarmed Palestinian protesters it is that the siege of Gaza is the major source of anger, and despair.
 
Any peace strategy or even a security plan in any country that is depended only on the military portion without taking into consideration other aspects is doomed to failure. Gaza will continue to experience internal and external explosions, as long as their people are cooped up in a big prison without a process that can give people hope.
 
If the Trump administration is intent on putting out a peace plan, serious work and confidence build measures must be implemented before even thinking of presenting any political plan.
 
The United States which has given itself the role of sponsor of peace process witnessed on the White House law the signing of the Palestinian Israeli Memorandum of Understanding. Winning over Gazans specially and Palestinian general is a pre request for any serious US peace role.
 
The launch of Donald Trump’s Ultimate plan after Ramadan, as has been reported, will be another disastrous event if done unilaterally and without any effort to prepare the public for it.
 
One idea that needs to be given serious attention is directly connected to the freedom of movement of Palestinians. If Jared Kushner and Jered Greenblatt want Palestinians and the world to believe that they are serious about peace they need to do something dramatic that can help provide even the tiniest possible ray of hope.
 
An immediate implementation of the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza will go a long way in giving people badly needed hope.
 
Palestinians living in either territory should have the right and the ability to travel back and forth from these two areas. No restrictions should be imposed and Israel should stay out of dictating who should and should not travel from one location of the occupied territory to the other.
 
This safe passage will not cause any direct danger to Israeli now that it has secured itself in the West Bank with the ugly wall built deep in Palestinian territory. The movement of people and goods in both directions from the West Bank and Gaza would not only dramatically lower tensions and anger, but will provide the economically strapped Gaza with an economic life line. The people of Gaza are educated and there are plenty of entrepreneurship skills to allow for such a dramatic change to life the economy of Gaza and erase its world record high unemployment rate.
 
Israel will come up with a thousand and one excuses for not enforcing Article X of the Oslo accords. They will claim that this will endanger lives of Israelis and add to the security burden of Israel.
 
Nothing can be farther from the truth.
 
Such a breakthrough would go a long way in lowering tensions and removing the very reason for why people are resorting to violent and nonviolent means to protest the Israeli occupation and siege.
 
The Palestinian government in Ramallah, which has been coordinating its security efforts with Israeli security forces, can supervise the arrangements for the safe passage but the movement of people and goods should not be highly bureaucratic and security clearances should not be necessary for people moving from one sector of Palestine to another albeit they will travel a few kilometres through pre-defined Israeli territory.
 
They safe passage article include over 20 provisions aimed to regulate and resolve any security related problems that might arise as a result of travel in this short distance. It even includes arranging for buses to transport individuals who do not get the needed Israeli security permit to use their cars to travel the distance.
 
In 2014 Israel foiled the fragile peace efforts of the Obama-Kerry team when it refused to release the fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners belonging to Mahmoud Abbas’s Fateh Party who were arrested before the Oslo Accords. That single Israeli decision let US Secretary of State John Kerry to say that this along with new Israeli settlements caused the peace talk to go up in the air.
 
In addition to a confidence building act, the return of direct talks can only happen when Israel agrees to honor its own commitments to release aging Palestinian prisoners and to suspend its counterproductive settlement activities.
 
There is a lot that needs to be done to return to the peace process. Lifting the siege on Gaza and allowing the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank is largely a symbolic move, but it will go a long way in convincing people of the seriousness of Tel Aviv and Washington about peace and ending the occupation.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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