Published — Wednesday 9 October 2013
Last update 9 October 2013 6:57 pm
RAMALLAH: The Palestinian economy is losing out on a potential $3.4 billion a year due to Israeli restrictions on the West Bank, the World Bank said in a report published on Tuesday.
The Palestinians could expand their struggling economy by a third and slash their budget deficit in half if Israel allowed them to use 61 percent of West Bank territory that is now largely off-limits, the World Bank said Tuesday.
“More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians,” said the World Bank.
“The first comprehensive study of the potential impact of this “restricted land,” released by the World Bank today, sets the current loss to the Palestinian economy at about $3.4 billion,” it added.
The bank and donor countries supporting the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Israel to open up the restricted territory, known as Area C.
But the report released Tuesday marked the first detailed attempt to quantify Palestinian losses.
“Access to Area C will not cure all Palestinian economic problems but the alternative is bleak,” 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 characterized by inconvenience, expense and frustration.”
Israel has sole control over 61 percent of the West Bank, or Area C, while the Palestinians administer the rest. Israeli retains overall control over security and crossings in and out of the West Bank.
Most of the West Bank’s natural resources and open spaces, including the sparsely populated Jordan Valley, are located in Area C. Yet less than 1 percent of Area C is open for Palestinian use, the bank said. Most of the rest of the land is controlled by Israeli settlements or has been designated as nature reserves and closed military zones, making it off-limits to Palestinians.
“The key to Palestinian prosperity continues to lie in the removal of these restrictions with due regard for Israel’s security,” the report said.