World Economy

UN Says Israel Stifling Palestinian Economy

UN Says Israel Stifling Palestinian EconomyUN Says Israel Stifling Palestinian Economy

Without Israeli occupation, the Palestinian economy could easily produce twice the gross domestic product it generates now, while unemployment and poverty could recede significantly, says a report published on Tuesday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people shows that following the economic decline of 2014, the Palestinian economy grew by 3.5% in 2015. However, the growth was not sufficient to lift stagnant per capita income, which remains below its 2013 level in Palestinian territory, Bernama reported.

The report argues that the occupation has cultivated permanent crises of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. In 2015, 25% of Palestinian people were unemployed and 66% were food-insecure. In Gaza, unemployment reached 38% in 2015.

The report reveals numerous channels through which occupation deprives the Palestinian people of their human right to development and hollows out the Palestinian economy.

These include the confiscation of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources; loss of policy space; restrictions on the movement of people and goods; destruction of assets and the productive base; expansion of Israeli settlements; fragmentation of domestic markets; separation from international markets and forced dependence on the Israeli economy.

The report also attributes the economic weakness to a decline in foreign aid and Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenue during the first four months of 2015.

In Gaza, producers are unable to access half of the cultivable area due to an Israeli-imposed buffer zone blocking access to land alongside the border fence, and 85% of fishery resources due to a maritime blockade, it said.

  Groundwater Confiscated

Israel also widely blocks Palestinians from digging water wells, while confiscating 82% of Palestinian groundwater, the agency said.

“The Palestinians are left with no choice but to import their own water from Israel to cover 50% of their consumption,” it said.

All of this combined has “generated permanent crises of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity.”

Meanwhile, the report notes that for the first time in 50 years, the infant mortality rate in Gaza escalated from 12 to 20.3 per 1,000 live births between 2008 and 2013. This trend is unprecedented and rarely observed outside communities affected by HIV epidemics.

The report concludes that examination of these costs and of other obstacles to trade and development is essential to place the Palestinian economy on the path to sustainable development and to achieve a just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as lasting peace in the Middle East.

It suggests the establishment of a systematic, rigorous and comprehensive framework to assess the ongoing economic cost of occupation.