Before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, thousands of Palestinians worked and did business in Israel. But years under the harsh thumb of Hamas have stifled the area’s economy and left it increasingly cut-off from the outside world, including not only Israel but Egypt. In theory, Hamas now rules Gaza in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority, but neither is able to maintain basic services. These dire circumstances were by no means inevitable, writes Armin Rosen:
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The $35-million Israeli border terminal at Erez looks like an international airport, with a soaring wave-like dome reaching over an inviting glass facade. When it opened in 2005, Israel was about to withdraw its soldiers and civilian settlers from the Gaza Strip, formerly Egyptian-occupied land which it had held since the Six-Day War in 1967. Each day more than 15,000 Palestinians were expected to use the terminal—not an unreasonable assumption, given that more than 110,000 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank crossed into Israel for work every day in the late 1990s.
But since the takeover by Hamas, a U.S. and EU-listed terror organization, traffic has precipitously declined. Erez now sees only a few hundred users a day, mostly aid workers and journalists along with Palestinians with rare permission to enter Israel for passage to the West Bank or Jordan or to visit relatives in Israeli hospitals.