Israeli and Palestinian leaders must seize the opportunity of the new ceasefire to end the cycle of violence, with lasting peace only possible if Israel permanently lifts its restrictions on Gaza’s economy and people, Oxfam said today in a new report.
Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, welcomed the ceasefire announcement and said negotiators and the international community must do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the past.
“Recent history must warn everyone that this ceasefire will only be a short-term fix, rather than a foundation for lasting peace, as long as Palestinian civilians in Gaza are denied their basic rights,” Mr Pandey said.
Mr Pandey said lessons must be learnt from the ceasefire after the last major conflict in November 2012. The following year was marked by the quietest security period in a decade, but commitments to ease the Israeli blockade of Gaza and improve the lives of civilians there remained largely unmet.
“The deadly hostilities of the past 50 days are likely to occur over and over again without an end to the blockade, which has left people in Gaza mired in poverty, unable to trade or move freely,” Mr Pandey said.
The current humanitarian crisis is the worst Gaza has seen in decades. More than 100,000 people have had their homes destroyed and are sheltering in overcrowded schools with less than an hour of running water a day. Billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure will take years to repair.
Oxfam’s report, Cease Failure: Rethinking seven years of failing policies in Gaza, says long-term peace for Palestinians and Israelis will require not only an end to the violence by both sides, but also an end to policies that have reduced a once vibrant economy to dependency on international aid. The report calls for an end to the political and physical isolation of Gaza from the West bank, which has resulted in the political, social and economic fragmentation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The blockade of Gaza has prevented farmers, manufacturers and businesses in Gaza from selling their produce in other Palestinian markets in the West Bank. Exports from Gaza are now just two per cent of levels before the blockade was put in place in 2007.
The report sets out specific immediate steps that should be taken to ensure rights and development for people in Gaza, while addressing Israel’s security concerns, including:
- Protecting civilians on both sides from military operations and rocket fire, by deploying international personnel to monitor ceasefire violations, and ensuring adequate border inspections;
- Ensuring people can move between Gaza and the West Bank by re-opening crossings to all except cases related to specific security concerns, instead of the current broad restrictions;
- Ensuring movement of goods essential for Gaza’s recovery and development, by removing restrictions on vital goods and upgrading the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing;
- Increasing diplomatic engagement with the new technocratic Palestinian unity government, which offers an opportunity to overcome divisions between Gaza and the West Bank and is a necessary step towards a viable two-state solution.
Oxfam welcomed the Australian Government’s recent announcements of an additional $15 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza, as well as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statements calling for a durable and long-term agreement that tackles the underlying causes of the conflict. The organisation urged the government to provide ongoing support to humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, as well as diplomatic pressure to reach a lasting peace based on international law.
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