Benchmarks

The concept 'Benchmarks' refers to a plan outlining performance-based 'benchmarks' requiring Israel to take measures to ease Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank and to enable the operation of Gaza's border crossing in exchange for an improvement in the security situation in the PA.

Definition

The concept 'Benchmarks' refers to a US security plan that outlines performance-based 'benchmarks'1 (04/07) requiring Israel to take measures to ease Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank and to enable the operation of Gaza's border crossing in exchange for an improvement in the security situation in the Palestinian territories.

Background

In light of Hamas' electoral victory (01/06), Israel and the international community boycotted the Hamas' government and later the unity government (03/07). These steps severely damaged the Palestinian economy in addition to the existing restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank.

The failure of the two parties to implement the Rafah agreement (11/06) coupled with the fact that the Rafah crossing was often closed due to Israeli security fears, prepared the ground for the 'benchmarks' plan. The plan was also indented to encourage the parties to break the political deadlock that has occurred since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip (09/05).

The Central Objectives of the Benchmarks:

  • Improving Palestinian movement and access in the West Bank - the plan stipulates the removal of Israeli restrictions on movement in the West Bank, especially in the Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus areas and in the Jordan Valley;

  • Creating a 'safe passage' for people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank - the plan specifies deadlines and methods for the implementation of the 'safe passage', with appropriate security arrangements;

  • Normalizing Gaza's border crossings - the Gaza-Egypt Rafah border crossing and the Gaza-Israel Kerem Shalom border crossing should be open and organized to 'normalized' passenger journeys and initial commercial exports;

  • Enhancing security arrangements - Palestinian Security Forces should actively enforce law and order and fight terrorism;2

Sources:

Haaretz, 05/04/07

Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, 06/01/07

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Israelinsider, 03/30/07


1 The full name of the Plan is 'Acceleration Benchmarks for Agreement on Movement and Access as well as on the Gaza Security Situation'.

2 On the operative level, the Benchmarks called for Palestinian security forces to deploy near Gaza's border with Egypt, conduct counter-smuggling operations and begin to destroy tunnel networks that have been used for smuggling; The plan also included demands that the Palestinian President deploy forces to stop Qassam rocket attacks into Israel and that The Government of Israel should approve and support (on an ongoing basis) the arming of the Palestinian Security Forces;

The Israeli Defense Forces and the Palestinian Security Forces were required to institute and improve bilateral communication through: (1). Reestablishing the liaison centers in the West Bank and forming border liaison centers in Gaza; and (2). Forming Joint Coordinating Cells enabling the synchronization of the Gaza-Egypt border security.