World Bank: Israel hampers Palestinian economy

Oct. 8, 2013 at 7:00 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Israel's policies in West Bank areas under its control prevent the Palestinian economy from flourishing, a World Bank report says.

The report published Tuesday examines the economic benefits of lifting Israeli imposed restrictions on access and movement in Area C, defined by the Oslo Accords as an area under full Israeli control, constituting 61 percent of West Bank territory.

The report, called "Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy," says the key to Palestinian prosperity lies in the removal of these restrictions with due regard to Israel's security needs.

The report alleges the Palestinian gross domestic product in the West Bank could increase by about 35 percent, or $3.4 billion annually, if the restrictions were removed.

The World Bank report focuses on agriculture, Dead Sea mineral exploitation, stone mining and quarrying, construction, water and irrigation, telecommunications, cosmetics and tourism. It also examined the legal, regulatory and bureaucratic constraints it said currently prevent investors from obtaining permits and accessing land.

More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it rich in resources and agriculture, is inaccessible to the Palestinians, the report said.

"Access to Area C will go a long way to solving Palestinian economic problems. The alternative is bleak. Without the ability to utilize the potential of Area C, the economic space will remain fragmented and stunted. Lifting multiple restrictions could transform the economy and substantially improve prospects for sustained growth," said Mariam Sherman, the outgoing country director for the West Bank and Gaza.

Lifting the restrictions and allowing access for the Palestinians would provide whole new areas of economic activity and set the economy on the path to sustainable growth, she said.

The 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, divided the West Bank into three areas: Area A, under full Palestinian security and civil control, which constitutes 18 percent of the West Bank; Area B under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control, which constitutes 21 percent of the West Bank, and Area C, the report notes.

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