Monday, March 22, 2010

Palestinian Economy Thrives in West Bank

Israel has adopted a series of measures to ease and support economic activity in the West Bank, as well as the capacity-building process in such spheres as security, various aspects of governance, the establishment of a legal and judicial system, and the strengthening of the banking system.

Economic growth in the West Bank reached about 8% in 2009.

Trade between Israel and the West Bank dropped by 4.05% in 2009 as compared with 2008, and constituted 70% of all the trade of the West Bank. The volume of trade with Israel stood at 13,594 million NIS.

The total trade of the West Bank grew by 2.75% in 2009 as compared with 2008. The total trade (including Israel) stood at 19,310 million NIS in 2009.

Palestinian imports from the world (not including Israel) registered an increase of 25% in 2009 as compared with 2008.

Palestinian exports to the world (not including Israel) registered a drop of 2.3% in 2009 as compared with 2008.

The transfer of tax money from Israel to the Palestinian Authority is being conducted in an orderly fashion on a monthly basis. In 2009, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (after deduction of payments owed by the Palestinians) 4,272 million NIS as compared with 3,918 million NIS in 2008. The increased amount constitutes another indicator of the growth in the Palestinian Authority's economic activity.

Other indicators point at the growth of economic activity: an increase of 41% in truck movement between Israel and the West Bank; an increase of 29% in fuel consumption and of 7.6% in diesel fuel consumption in mid-2009 in comparison with the parallel period in 2008. The significant rise in automobile imports into the West Bank is also continuing.

A survey undertaken by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics among business people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in December 2009 points to an increase in optimism among manufacturers and businesspeople.

Tourism: This past Christmas more than 60,000 tourists visited Bethlehem and there was systematic coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to ensure and coordinate the movement of tourists to and from Bethlehem.

The Palestinian Campaign to Boycott Israeli Products Made in the Settlements

There is concern about the Palestinian Authority's campaign to boycott Israeli products made in the settlements. This campaign is being budgeted by the Palestinian Authority at the amount of 150,000 dollars from its budget – i.e., from funds provided by the donor countries. The campaign is generating a most negative atmosphere of boycotting Israeli goods in general and does not abide by the WTO rules of trade. Moreover, it is harming the livelihood of 30,000 Palestinian workers who are employed by Israeli employees in the West Bank, and could be interpreted by the local population as a permit for violence against Israel and Israeli targets.

Steps Taken by Israel to Support Palestinian Economic Activity

§ Increasing the hours when the Allenby Bridge Terminal is open to the passage of goods and pedestrians (a pilot effort that was recently extended and will continue through the summer).

§ Upgrading the Gilboa-Jalameh crossing point in the northern part of the West Bank for vehicular traffic (opened on 13 October 2009). About 1500 cars enter the West Bank through this crossing point every weekend. Since the crossing point was opened to vehicles, the economy of Jenin has grown by 30-35%. The income deriving from the entry of Israeli Arabs into the towns of Jenin, Tulkarm, Jericho, and Bethlehem is estimated to be around 8 million NIS every weekend. In November and December, over 30,000 vehicles entered through the Gilboa crossing point alone. The permit for Israeli Arabs to enter the West Bank with their vehicles through various crossing points constitutes a significant contribution to the local economic activity.

§ Removal of roadblocks and barriers: Since 2008, the number of major checkpoints was reduced from 41 to 14. From April 2008 until today 209 roadblocks were removed. Ten of the barriers that were removed this past January are on Route 60, the major north-south artery in the West Bank.

§ This past year considerable sums of money were invested in upgrading the crossing points for goods between Israel and the West Bank, so that they could manage the movement of trucks in short periods of time and with efficiency. During 2010, 8 million dollars have been invested (with USAID funding) in upgrading the Gilboa and Shaar Ephraim crossing points for goods.

§ Beginning in January 2010, the hours of operation at the Tarqumiya crossing point for goods were extended, a measure which enables Palestinian merchants to increase the number of shipments which are sent on a daily basis to Israeli ports.

§ The quadrilateral dialogue headed by Japan to establish an agro-industrial zone in Jericho is continuing. An additional meeting will be held on 17 March.

§ Israel is acting to assist the French initiative to establish an industrial zone in Bethlehem and is acting in full cooperation with the French President's envoy to move the project forward.

§ Israel maintains close working ties with the Quartet's Envoy, Tony Blair, and his team to handle and promote economic projects and measures that support economic activity, including the issue of the access road to the town of Rawabi.

§ The Israeli security network maintains close ties with General Dayton and is doing all that it can to assist the process of building the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces. Israel participates in a quadrilateral monitoring forum which convenes pursuant to the Berlin Conference and discusses subjects pertaining to the development of Palestinian capabilities in civilian security as well as in building capabilities pertaining to the law and to the judicial system.

The Gaza Strip

Israel is committed to enabling the supply of humanitarian needs to the Gaza Strip and is operating the crossing points to enable humanitarian movement. The basket of goods entering the Gaza Strip is large and responds to humanitarian needs. Israel enables the orderly departure of sick people and those who accompany them to receive medical treatment in Israel and outside the country.
There is no shortage in the Gaza Strip, due in part to the flow of goods and raw materials through the tunnels.

The abducted Israeli, Gilad Shalit, has been in Hamas hands for almost 4 years and is denied access required under international law. Hamas is a terrorist organization that refuses to meet the three conditions of the Quartet.

Israel enables the transfer of cash to international organizations operating in the Gaza Strip and the transfer of shekels to pay the wages of Palestinian Authority employees (about 70,000 in number). There is no shortage of cash in the Gaza Strip.

Israel enables the supply of diesel fuel to the power plant in the Gaza Strip and also enables the entry of teams for plant maintenance, the entry of spare parts, and the removal of parts for repairs and their return to the Gaza Strip.

Recently, the entry of glass into the Gaza Strip began, to enable the repair of homes that were damaged during Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. More than 100 trucks carrying glass have entered thus far into the Gaza Strip and this is continuing.

Israel has advanced contacts with the UN Secretary-General's envoy, Robert Serry, to approve the carrying out of humanitarian infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip, with emphasis on water and sewage.

Israel enables strawberries and carnations to leave the Gaza Strip for markets abroad.

Israel enabled in recent months the entry of cement and construction materials for the reconstruction of buildings and for various humanitarian projects. From May 2009 through January 2010, 1,352 tons of building materials entered the Gaza Strip. Israel approved the entry of an elevator for the maternity hospital al-Awad (15 February).

Recently, Israel arranged the matter of transferring social security payments to beneficiaries in the Gaza Strip.

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