Israel stifles Palestinian growth, says World Bank

Easing restrictions on land and labour could boost the West Bank’s GDP by 35 per cent

Jerusalem

The Palestinian economy would expand by more than a third if Israeli restrictions on movement, land access and water use are lifted in the majority of the occupied West Bank that remains under full Israeli control, a World Bank report has said.

The report warned of a “bleak” future if Israel did not relinquish its economic strictures in what is known as area C, which comprises 61 per cent of the West Bank, but it also said Palestinians would have to address Israeli security concerns there.

“More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agriculture and resource rich is inaccessible to the Palestinians,” the report said. “Without the ability to conduct purposeful economic activity in area C, the economic space of the West Bank will remain crowded and stunted, inhabited by people whose daily interactions with the state of Israel are characterised by inconvenience, expense and frustration.”

The report, which was welcomed by Palestinians, but criticised by Israel’s foreign ministry, comes two weeks after Tony Blair, in his capacity as envoy of the Middle East peacemaking quartet, unveiled at the United Nations plans for a major effort to boost the Palestinian private sector including in construction, housing, and agriculture. Mr Blair said success would depend among other things on Israel’s implementing “large scale easing measures”.

While the World Bank said there has been some easing of movement and access restrictions in recent years, it stressed that they still “fragment” the West Bank and cause major economic damage. At the end of 2012, sixty Palestinian communities were still compelled to use detours that are 2 to 5 times longer than the direct route to the closest city, the report said. Israel has said the restrictions are needed to prevent Palestinian attacks, but Palestinians charge that they constitute economic warfare. The report said movement of people and goods “is severely limited by a multi-layered system of physical, institutional and administrative impediments. Physical barriers are compounded by unpredictable regulatory measures and practices.”

The report added that Palestinian agriculture is stymied by Israeli restrictions on accessing land and on water use and would undergo a major transformation if curbs were lifted. It cited the formidable output of Israeli settlements in date and pomegranate production, noting most Palestinian cultivation is still of olives due to their relatively low water requirement.

The report said that minerals from the Dead Sea, including potash and bromide, could become a major boon for the Palestinian economy as they have for Jordan and Israel and that Palestinians could also open hotels on the Dead Sea shore.

“The total potential value added for alleviating today’s restrictions on the access to and activity and production in area C is likely to amount to $3.4bn or thirty five per cent of Palestinian GDP in 2011,” the report said. It estimated that Palestinian unemployment would shrink by more than a third if the strictures were eased and that the need for foreign donor support would be reduced.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson criticised the report as “incomplete and partial”.

“It ignores the global economic situation, violence in Palestinian society and the fact that Israel has spoken of the need to nurture the Palestinian economy, including area C, and has done so.” he said. Mr Hirschson said that issues in the report would be discussed in the peace negotiations that resumed in July

Samir Abdallah, director of the Ramallah based Palestinian Economic Policy Research Institute, praised the report as being “an objective assessment”.

“I’m sure lifting restrictions in area C will have a meaningful and dramatic impact on the growth of the Palestinian economy,” he said.

He did not rule out that Mr Blair’s efforts could produce some results. “Our experience with Tony Blair is that he promises, but that his delivery has not been impressive. Now he’s backed by this plan and the Americans so this time let’s wait and see.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor