Gaza, a 360 sq km area that borders the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Israel, is home today to approximately 1.3 million Palestinians and 7,500 Jews.
Gaza suffers from a weak economy caused by a combination of robust growth and low income. More than 6 children are born to the average Gaza woman. At the same time, the imposition of border closures in response to security incidents in Israel has produced an unemployment rate of 50%. Consequently, approximately 60% of Gaza residents live under the poverty line. The complete collapse of the economy was prevented by an international grant of $2 billion to the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 2001-02.
Currently Gaza is Israeli-occupied. Hamas, a radical Islamic organization and the leading perpetrator of terrorist activity against Israel, has a strong base in Gaza. It has become costly for Israel to provide security in Gaza, both in terms of military resources and Israeli lives. A plan for Israel to disengage from Gaza is being proposed by the Israeli prime minister. The outline of the Gaza Disengagement Plan below comes directly from the Prime Minister's Office.
Israel is committed to the peace process and aspires to reach an agreed resolution of the conflict on the basis of the principle of two states for two peoples, the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, as part of the implementation of President Bush's vision.
Israel is concerned to advance and improve the current situation. Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a bilateral peace process. Accordingly, it has developed a plan of unilateral disengagement, based on the following considerations:
i. The stalemate dictated by the current situation is harmful. In order to break out of this stalemate, Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation.
ii. The plan will lead to a better security situation, at least in the long term.
iii. The assumption that, in any future permanent status arrangement, there will be no Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is clear that in the West Bank, there are areas which will be part of the State of Israel, including cities, towns and villages, security areas and installations, and other places of special interest to Israel.
iv. The relocation from the Gaza Strip and from Northern Samaria (as delineated on Map) will reduce friction with the Palestinian population, and carries with it the potential for improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions.
v. The hope is that the Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue.
vi. The process of disengagement will serve to dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
vii. The process of disengagement is without prejudice to the Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Relevant arrangements shall continue to apply.
When there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue.