New Restrictions at Kerem Shalom Crossing Could Exacerbate Gaza Crisis, Undermine Israeli Security

August 2, 2018

J Street remains deeply concerned by the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and violence along the fenceline with Israel. We fear that the Israeli government’s new decision to ban fuel and gas from entering Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing could exacerbate the conflict and suffering.

The ongoing use of arson kites and other incendiary devices to cause damage to Israeli agriculture and property is destructive, unacceptable and must cease. The intensive restrictions on the the movement of vital goods and supplies at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, however, will not alleviate the arson threat — instead, they could ultimately undermine Israel’s security. Years of conflict have made clear that steps which penalize Gazans en masse and devastate their quality of life only empower Hamas and increase instability.

Already faced with a humanitarian nightmare and a chronic electricity shortage, Gazans depend on regular fuel imports just to provide them with a few hours of power each day. Emergency services, hospitals, public services and businesses rely on this fuel to function even at a minimal level — and now will be further crippled.

Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority continue to do far too little to help the people of Gaza. By cutting vital funding to UNRWA and to USAID-supported humanitarian programs, the Trump administration has also stunningly made a disastrous situation even worse. That is why 70 Members of Congress wrote to the administration this week urging them to restore this aid, and calling on them to push our partners to ease the blockade on the territory.

As the representatives wrote: “We believe the US should encourage all parties to increase access to electricity flow into Gaza to meet the critical need for reliable energy. We should also push our partners to ease the blockade on the movement of goods, equipment and people in and out of the territory.”

We are encouraged that Israel has, over the past several days, permitted the movement of a shipping container carrying equipment to help complete the installment of a large desalination plant in the Gaza Strip. We are also encouraged by reports that Egypt-led negotiations between Israel and Hamas may be making some progress towards a diplomatic solution that can halt the ongoing violence and bring much-needed relief to Gaza.

We urge the US government to do everything it can to help these negotiations succeed. Only determined diplomacy can head-off further disaster.