This concept refers to a physical connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The concept of safe passage refers to a physical connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, facilitating the movement of goods, services and people between the two areas. The Safe Passage was repeatedly demanded by the Palestinians during the Oslo Process, but is yet to be realized.
Before 1967, there was no special passage established between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the 1978 Camp David Accords (9/78), Israel and Egypt referred to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as composing one political unit.
In the Declaration of Principles (9/93), signed between Israel and the PLO, Israel officially recognized the principle of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a Single Territorial Unit. The Palestinians demanded a Safe Passage as a realization of this principle.1
The Protocol Concerning Safe Passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip2 (10/99) was to create temporary arrangements of passage between Gaza and the West Bank. It states that "…the arrangements included […] are without prejudice to the permanent status negotiations". The protocol was never fully implemented.
Throughout Permanent Status negotiations, the Safe Passage was usually perceived as compensation to the Palestinians for not receiving 100% of the West Bank. The Clinton Ideas proposed 94-96% of the West Bank to the Palestinians in addition to a Safe Passage,4 while the Geneva Initiative allotted the Palestinians 100% of the West Bank in addition to a Safe Passage.
The Disengagement Plan did not refer to a Safe Passage, although its implementation has created a differentiation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim that Israel maintains its responsibility over Gaza as long as the safe passage is not established.5 (See Systemic Overview: End of Responsibility in Gaza).
Elements of the international community view the Safe Passage as necessary for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and viability of a future Palestinian state.6 The Quartet has explicitly stated that the West Bank and Gaza must be connected in any future Palestinian state.
This mindset brought about international pressure on Israel to sign the Rafah Agreement (11/05).7 According to the agreement, Israel would allow the passage of convoys between Gaza and the West Bank and facilitate the movement of goods and persons.
Throughout the years, different proposals regarding the safe passage have been presented, such as a surface road, elevated bridge or a sunken road.8
3 Ibid, article 11 (a).
5 Saeb Erekat, "A Palestinian View: Gaza Remains Occupied", Bitterlemons.org, 22/8/05. See here.
7 For the full version see the link on the Re'ut website: the Rafah Agreement (paragraph 3: Link between Gaza and the West Bank. 8 Israel\Palestinian Center for Research and Information, Gaza-West Bank Passage: A Review of Policy Options and Recommendations, July 2005.