Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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1 Sivan 5765 - June 8, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Israel Offers Rail Link between West Bank and Gaza

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Israel has suggested constructing a special rail line linking the Gaza Strip and West Bank to allow Palestinians in the two areas easy. The tracks would run from the Erez checkpoint to the Tarqumiya crossing near Hebron. The idea was approved by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before it was presented to the PA.

The Palestinian coordination team, headed by the Minister for Civil Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, has insisted that Israel commit to operating the "safe passage" between the Gaza Strip and West Bank as provided in all the earlier agreements. The link is important to the Palestinians, to demonstrate that the ties between the two parts of the PA will be preserved in the future.

The "safe passage" between the West Bank and Gaza Strip was part of the Oslo Accords. Some signs were put up, but it was never carried out as originally promised. Sharon was against reviving the concept, but he agreed to the rail passage which does not entail Palestinian cars on Israeli roads. The "safe passage" was supposed to allow Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the Yehuda/Shomron without having to pass through Israeli security checkpoints and customs authorities.

The main issue up for discussion now is the operation of crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel after the disengagement, which is considered the "bottleneck" in developing the Palestinian economy because of delays in transporting goods to the ports.

"The crossings must be improved," a senior Israeli source said yesterday. "That will decide the fate of the economic- civilian disengagement. In a situation in which we do not want Palestinian workers in Israel, [the PA] will have to increase industrial and agricultural production in the Strip, and the crossings have to operate quickly. With the current methods, it will be a major disaster."

Another issue that will be raised is the joint "customs envelope" for Israel and the PA. Israel is under tremendous international pressure to preserve the joint customs with the PA, in accordance with the "Paris protocol" attached to the Oslo Accords. But the Israeli position is that when the pullout from the Gaza Strip and Philadelphi route is complete, Israel will not be able to rely on Palestinian customs inspections.

The solution will apparently be to set up Israeli customs stations at the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and inspect the goods there.


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