In 2012 the Palestinian arena was influenced by two main trends: continued unrest in the Arab World, in particular regime instability amongst Israel’s neighbors, and the international economic crisis. These affected both the security situation and the economy.
In the West Bank, the security situation remained relatively stable, in great part thanks to the continuous cooperation and coordination between Israeli and Palestinian Authority, evident in the weekly joint meetings. Meetings at commander level increased from 4 to 11 this year.
By contrast, the economic situation in the West Bank suffered, resulting in a wave of protests and demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority over economic hardships and lack of payments to government employees. COGAT worked to mitigate this situation by increasing the number of work permits in Israel, and broadening their terms. Internationally, the PA continued its efforts to delegitimize Israel and take unilateral actions within the international arena, culminating in their appeal for non-member status at the UN in November 2012. These actions on the part of the Palestinian Authority widen the gap vis-à-vis Israel and undermine political relations.
Despite the international displays of discord, at field level cooperation and coordination continued, and dozens of projects were implemented, as were various measures aimed at alleviating Palestinian economic hardship.
In the field of agriculture, the Civil Administration continued its excellent partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, resulting in a number of training sessions, information days, and joint investments aimed at combating livestock and plant diseases.
Extensive measures were implemented to improve crossings from the West Bank to Israel, including renovations and streamlined bureaucracy in order to make crossing faster and more comfortable. Greatly increased numbers of passengers travelled to Israel for the holidays – almost triple since 2011. Palestinians traveling from the West Bank to Israel for healthcare reasons have also increased by 11% since 2011, bringing the number to 219,469 patients and accompanying adults. The Civil Administration Healthcare department also financed 20 medical procedures for Palestinian children whose parents did not have means to pay. COGAT placed great emphasis on infrastructural projects this year, in particular on roads and electricity. Improved roads, along with increased monitoring on the part of the Palestinian traffic police, led to a decrease in road accidents of 28%.
2012 was a very productive year in the field of environment, particularly in regards to progress with solid waste and sewage projects. Furthermore, considerable sums were invested in roadside garbage removal and in stream cleaning initiatives this year, as well as in pest and disease control.
In contrast with the West Bank, the security situation in Gaza was unstable. During 2012 there were four major escalations, the most serious of which was in November. This escalating violence led Israel to launch Operation Pillar of Defense, during which Hamas rockets were launched as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Hamas suffered significant damage to their rocket capabilities, their offensive military capability and to their senior personnel. The Operation concluded with a ceasefire mediated by Egypt. Since then, there have been arrangements that have resulted in a relatively quiet security situation.
Hamas has refrained from engaging in terror activities and Israel has expanded the its civil policy in a number of ways, such as increasing the fishing zone to 6 nautical miles, approving the import of dual-use construction materials for the private sector and increasing the number of heavy vehicles entering the Strip. In terms of coordination and movement.
Kerem Shalom crossing was expanded in order to allow for faster and increased transfers of goods, and there was a 25% increase in foottraffic through Erez Crossing since 2011. 235 projects initiated by the international community were approved, and Gaza saw an increase in employment in the construction sector and export of agricultural goods as well as textiles and furniture. COGAT has worked to improve Gaza’s electricity supply, and invested in upgrading the Grizim power line which serves 70,000 northern Gaza residents.
In the field of water, COGAT continues to support as best it can initiatives to improve the critical water and wastewater situation in the Gaza Strip.
Overall, 2012 was a year of progress despite the many challenges, both domestic and international, that we have faced. The positive improvements from 2011 to 2012 are considerable and COGAT will continue to act in order to see this trend continue and increase in the upcoming year.