World Bank blames Israel for Palestinians woes

An archive photo of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank
An archive photo of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank
A World Bank report has blamed the Israeli regime for squeezing Palestinian economy of billions of dollars by restricting access to Area C, which comprises some 61 percent of West Bank territory but is under full Israeli security control.

The report said on Monday that the Palestinian economy could add $3.4 billion in potential value a year, or 35 percent of the 2011 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), if Palestinians are allowed to develop the restricted area.

The bank says the deficit of the Palestinian self-rule government, currently dependent on foreign aid, would drop by half, thereby reducing “the need for donor support, and reduce unemployment and poverty rates.”

The administrative areas of the West Bank were established by the 1994 Oslo peace accords. Area C was supposed to gradually be transferred to Palestinian control by 1998, but the transfer never took place.

The bank has repeatedly called on Israel to lift the restrictions, but the report is the first detailed attempt to quantify the losses.

“The densely populated urban areas of the West Bank usually command the most attention,” said Mariam Sherman, outgoing Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, in a press release. “But unleashing the potential from that ‘restricted land,’ — access to which is currently constrained by layers of restrictions — and allowing Palestinians to put these resources to work, would provide whole new areas of economic activity and set the economy on the path to sustainable growth,” she said.

Access to Area C, Sherman said, would “go a long way to solving Palestinian economic problems” and without that added stimulus, “the alternative is bleak.”

The report called the Palestinian economy “unsustainable.”

“A vital economy is essential for citizen well-being, social stability and building confidence to underpin the challenging political negotiations,” the report said. “However, the Palestinian economy, which currently relies on donor financed consumption and suffers from ongoing stagnation of the private sector, is unsustainable.”

NTJ/BA

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