In a damning report, the UN development body (UNCTAD) described the ways Israeli occupation of Gaza and West Bank has been preventing the Palestinian economy from recovery and getting twice as big as it is now.
The document detailing the “staggering economic cost” of Israeli occupation was released on Tuesday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“The Palestinian economy would be at least twice as large without Israeli occupation,” the findings reveal.
Among the key reasons for the high unemployment and staggering poverty the agency cites “confiscation of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources.” It adds that “restrictions on the movement of people and goods; destruction of assets and the productive base;” also played a major role here.
According to the latest estimations by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics nearly 27 percent of people of the autonomy are currently without job. Meanwhile UNCTAD has revealed that over 66 percent of the Palestinians were food-insecure last year.
“The continuous process of de-agriculturalization and de-industrialization” has contributed to a severe degradation of Palestinian economy, according to the UN report. The paper states that in Gaza “producers are denied access to half of the cultivable area and 85 per cent of fishery resources.”
The West Bank area is facing a similar problem, according to the UN. In the so-called area C, which constitutes over 60 percent of West Bank “more than 66 per cent of its grazing land, is not accessible to Palestinian producers”.
The figures published in the report say that the Israeli occupation of the Area C “costs the Palestinian economy the equivalent of 35 per cent of GDP ($4.4 billion in 2015).”
The Israeli military campaign in 2014 whose proclaimed goal, was to prevent rocket attacks on its territories from the Palestinian areas delivered another blow to the financial recovery of the Palestinians.
The following tightening of the Gaza blockade, in place since 2007, made the things even worse, the report states. It resulted in additional civilian items being banned after labeled “dual-use”, meaning they can be also implemented for causing harm.
The crisis resulted in additional severe shortages of medical equipment as well as serious reduction in water supplies in the occupied territories, the UN finds. The problem also contributed to the rising infant mortality, with almost 20 percent out of 1000 live births. The trend is labeled “unprecedented” and found only in countries “affected by HIV epidemics”
In addition UNCTAD points out that the expanding settlement policies by the Israeli authorities are contributing to the Palestinian plight.
“There are now 142 settlements in the West Bank, bringing the number of Israeli settlers to over one fifth of the Palestinian population. This expansion undermines the prospects for a two-State solution,” UNCTAD claims.
The so-called two-state solution, proposed by the UN would see an establishment of an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel, west of the Jordan River. The potential boundaries however remain one of the key stumbling blocks here.
In the latest development, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s press service has issued a statement saying he is considering Russia’s offer to host Israeli-Palestinian talks in Moscow
“[Netanyahu] presented Israel’s position whereby he is always ready to meet [Abbas] without preconditions and is therefore considering the Russian president’s proposal and the timing for a possible meeting,” the statement said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted the offer to meet with Netanyahu, although the date for the talks has not been yet set.