Gaza: Implement the Agreement on Movement and Access NOW


In November 2005, shortly after withdrawing its settlers and ground troops from Gaza, Israel signed the Agreement on Movement and Access [1].  The Agreement provided for, amongst other things:


(1)   continuous operation of crossings between Israel and Gaza for the import and export of goods and the transit of people

(2)   a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah for the export of goods and the transit of people

(3)   the building of a seaport in Gaza

(4)   re-opening of the airport in Gaza

(5)   bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza


These arrangements were drawn up by former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, who was then Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement for the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN Secretary-General).


This agreement was supposed “to promote peaceful economic development and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground” in Gaza (to quote from its preamble) in the wake of Israeli disengagement.  But, instead of implementing the provisions of the agreement, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, which has brought untold misery to its people.



Condoleezza Rice promises


Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State) and Javier Solana (EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy) launched the Agreement at a press conference in Jerusalem on 15 November 2005.  At the launch, Condoleezza Rice declared:


“This agreement is intended to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives.


 “First, for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah, whose target opening date is November 25th.


“Second, Israel and the Palestinians will upgrade and expand other crossings for people and cargo between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This is especially important now because Israel has committed itself to allow the urgent export of this season’s agricultural produce from Gaza.


“Third, Palestinians will be able to move between Gaza and the West Bank; specifically, bus convoys are to begin about a month from now and truck convoys are to start a month after that.


“Fourth, the parties will reduce obstacles to movement within the West Bank. It has been agreed that by the end of the year the United States and Israel will complete work to lift these obstacles and develop a plan to reduce them.


“Fifth, construction of a Palestinian seaport can begin. The Rafah model will provide a basis for planned operations.


“Sixth, the parties agree on the importance of the airport. Israel recognizes that the Palestinian Authority will want to resume construction on the airport. I am encouraging Israel to consider allowing construction to resume as this agreement is successfully implemented -- construction that could, for instance, be limited to non-aviation elements.” [2]



Implement NOW


This is what the US/EU promised the people of Gaza in November 2005 in the Agreement on Movement and Access.  Nearly a decade later, none of it has been delivered.  For most of that time, Gaza has been subject to a brutal economic blockade by Israel and the US/EU, the sponsors of the agreement, have stood idly by and let it happen.


From time to time, the EU has voiced the opinion that the blockade should be lifted, for example, in European Council conclusions in December 2012, which stated that “the European Union reiterates its call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip” [3].  But it hasn’t lifted a finger to bring this about.


In the same conclusions, the EU stated that “it is vital that all parts of the ceasefire agreement are implemented”.  The ceasefire agreement mentioned here is the one, brokered by Egypt a few weeks earlier, which brought to an end Israel’s second major military offensive against Gaza.  This agreement included a commitment by Israel to “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement” [4].   Israel didn’t implement this or any other aspect of the ceasefire agreement – see Sadaka Briefing Will Israel implement an agreement with Hamas? History suggests NO [5] – but the EU hasn’t uttered a word of reproof against Israel for failing to do so.


In November 2005, the arrangements contained in the Agreement on Movement and Access were deemed necessary to maintain and develop the economic life of Gaza.   With Gaza’s economy in ruins due to Israel’s economic blockade and its periodic destruction of Gaza’s economic infrastructure, these arrangements are even more vital today.



David Morrison

19 August 2014