Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Economic Success?

It is a fact that Israel has now taken major steps to spur the Palestinian economy, despite the security risks involved. Two-thirds of the check points have been removed in the last three months and only 14 remain in operation, out of 41 just a few months ago.

All checkpoints around the major West Bank cities have been removed. A Palestinian driving from Jenin to Hebron today will only have to pass through two checkpoints, a considerable change from a few years ago.

In addition Israel has also substantially increased the number of permits issued to Palestinian businessmen and VIPS able to come and go from the West Bank to Israel, and that there were now some 75,000 Palestinians working in Israel, a 25% increase from the previous year.

The consequence of these steps has been an 8 percent growth in the West Bank's economy, according to the World Bank, decreasing unemployment, and a significant increase in tax revenue. Which country in the world can boast these figures in the present state of the world economy?

Tourism to the West Bank tripled last year, reaching some 1.2 million, with the hotels in the West Bank now running at 75 percent capacity, there is now NIS 13 billion in annual trade between Israel and the West Bank, with 80 percent of that being goods imported into Israel from the West Bank.

In addition there are three major projects underway in cooperation with the Regional Development Ministry:

a) The planning and development of a light industrial zone for tourism and services near Bethlehem, with the assistance of the French government.

b) A major industrial zone in Jalameh in the Jenin area, with the assistance of the German government.

c) A zone for the export and processing of agricultural products in Jericho, with the assistance of the Japanese government. Much progress has been made, and years-old obstacles have been removed.

Are we now going to see some minute flexibility on behalf of the Palestinian Authority? Forgive my skepticism but I don’t see it coming.

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