(MENAFN- Jordan Times)
Israel's occupation policies robbed the Palestinian people of $50 billion between 2000 and 2020 by blocking the growth of their economy, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has reported to the General Assembly.
The report, 'Economic costs of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people', estimated that the annual loss of $2.5 billion is 'equivalent to three times the West Bank GDP [Gross Domestic Product] in 2020 and over 2.5 times the [toital] Palestinian GDP in the same year”.
The focus of the report is Area C, the 60 per cent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, placed under temporary Israeli control by Oslo Accord II of 1995 while Area A, 18 per cent, was to be under Palestinian Authority administrative and security control and Area B, 22 per cent, was to be administered by the Authority while security control was exercised by Israel.
The key word in this agreement was 'temporary' as the intention was that the Israelis would stage military withdrawals from most of the territory conquered in 1967 while Palestinian and Israeli negotiators would settle the fate of Israeli colonies, Palestinian refugees, ocupied East Jerusalem, resources and other issues. Therefore, this division was never meant to be permanent.
However, the Israelis have made the division permanent by planting more than 200 illegal colonies inhabited by 620,000 Israelis in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and declaring large tracts of land“closed military zones”. Israel has also conducted constant military raids into Areas A and B, eroding the Palestinian Authority's role and credibility.
The boundaries of Israeli colonies incorporate 70 per cent of the land in Area C, denying the more than 300,000 who live there the rights to develop their land, build homes and businesses, access to water and electricity, and contribute to the overall Palestinian economy.
UNCTAD reported that Area C consists of 'the largest and only contiguous part of the West Bank and has 'the most fertile land and valuable natural resources'. UNCTAD also estimated that the annual contribution of the Israeli colonies to the Israeli economy is $41 billion.
According to other sources, the cost to Israel of maintaining the military occupation is around $7 billion a year, about 9 per cent of Israel's annual budget. Israel does not give out figures for expenditures on building homes in colonies, subsidising colonists and constructing infrastructure for colonies but it is certain to be in the billions of dollars.
Palestinian access to the non-contiguous 166 enclaves comprising the 40 per cent of West Bank territory under Palestinian Authority administration is 'heavily restricted', UNCTAD stated. Palestinian access to all the West Bank and East Jerusalem 'is necessary for the sustainable development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and for the emergence of a viable, contiguous Palestinian State based on the two-State solution, in line with relevant UN resolutions'.
UNCTAD stated that 'until the occupation is ended, foreign aid and donor support to the Palestinian people must be strengthened to avert future socioeconomic and humanitarian crises'. Unfortunately, the Ukraine war is draining the coffers of usual donors to humanitarian agencies dealing with other global wars and disasters. Palestine is only one of these crises.
The latest 2022 report has restated warnings of earlier UNCTAD submissions to the Assembly on the state of affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories but world leaders who could press Israel to change its policies have ignored these warnings. As a result, the situation of Palestinians living under Israel's occupation regime is growing worse and worse and young Palestinians, who feel they have no futures, have responded with violence.
This has mounted since the outgoing Israeli government launched 'Operation Breakwater', a sustained campaign of nightly raids, arrests and assassinations across the West Bank launched in response to the killing of 17 Israelis by Palestinians between March and May. The Israeli campaign did not halt the attrition. By the end of last month another 12 Israelis were added to the toll while at least 139 West Bank/East Jerusalem Palestinians had been slain this year. These were the highest numbers of fatalities for both sides since 2008. Another 49 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombardment of Gaza in August.
The prognosis is poor. Israel's hard right government under formation by ex-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to step up repression while his ultra-Zionist and ultra-religious ministers are likely to stir up conflict in the West Bank and at the Haram Al Sharif, the mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem regarded by Israelis as the site of the Temple of Solomon which was destroyed by the ruling Romans during a Jewish revolt in Palestine in 70AD.
Radicals belonging the Temple Mount Faithful and similar organisations seek to raze the mosques and rebuild the temple despite Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and international opposition. While even Netanyahu's extreme right and religious government is unlikely to approve such a drastic plan, Israeli religious activists could be given wider leeway to conduct public prayers in the Haram Al Sharif in violation of the Status Quo Agreement reached between Jordan and Israel following the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, ensuring that the compound will remain a flashpoint in the escalating conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.