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Economy could be 'double' without Israeli occupation

Feb. 8, 2012 5:50 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2012 1:16 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A UN seminar in Cairo heard on Tuesday that the Palestinian economy would be double the size it is now if it was not subjected to Israel's occupation.

The seminar, held from Feb. 6-7, focused on quantifying the cost of Israel's occupation to the Palestinian economy.

The restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel were the main impediments to any prospects for a sustainable Palestinian economy, Jad Isaac, director of the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem, told panelists.

Israeli policies seek to exploit Palestinian natural resources, including land and water, for its own economic benefit, preventing the development of a competitive Palestinian production and service industry, Isaac said.

The restrictions imposed by Israel were almost equal in value to the entire Palestinian economy, meaning the total measurable cost of the Israeli occupation is around 84 percent of Palestinian GDP.

The confiscation of land and water resources and the mass uprooting of olive trees have also crippled the agricultural sector in Palestine, which cannot currently meet the food needs of Palestinians, let alone produce sufficient goods to export, economist Shir Hever said.

Occupation costs do not relate to 'security'

Heavy restrictions imposed on Palestinians in terms of accessing their own natural resources accounted for the majority of financial losses in the Palestinian economy, Isaac said.

The cost in terms of foregone revenue and higher cost for raw materials because of Israeli restrictions amounted to more than $4.5 billion a year.

While restricting Palestinian access to natural resources, Israel actively exploited the same water, land and mineral resources for its own economic gain.

The expansion of irrigated agriculture, the extraction of salts and minerals from the Dead Sea, the mining of much of the gravel and stone available in the West Bank, and the development of the Gaza offshore gas field are all potential areas of large economic revenue for the Palestinian economy which are prevented from developing by Israeli restrictions, Isaac added.

Shir Hever, economist at the Alternative Information Center, said that Israeli society has actively pursued the occupation despite viable alternatives. Israelis have voted for political parties who promised to actively maintain the occupation and one in seven Israelis have moved to the occupied Palestinian territories.

There was no question whether the damage to the Palestinian economy by Israeli occupation was significant, the question was how to measure it properly, Hever added.

Socio-economic impact

Tarek Alami, head of a conflict related section in the UN economic and social commission for Western Asia, said that since 2004 around 21,000 Palestinian have been displaced as a result of house demolitions.

Over 2,144 Palestinians were injured by Israel forces in 2011 and around 125 people were killed. Two-thirds of those cases were linked to settlement activity, Alami added.

Around 190 Palestinian children were prisoners in Israeli jails at some point during 2011, with 63 cases of ill-treatment of minors documented.

The two day seminar in Cairo was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and was attended by academics, civil society members and dignitaries.

The seminar focused on quantifying the cost of Israeli occupation.
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