Additional restrictions imposed on Palestinian development in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank cost the Palestinian economy an estimated $50 billion between 2000 and 2020, the UN development agency said Tuesday.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in report to the UN General Assembly that extra restrictions imposed within the West Bank's so-called Area C, which remains under full Israeli control, had cost $2.5 billion per year.
The report, titled “Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: The toll of the additional restrictions in Area C, 2000–2020”, estimates the cost of the additional restrictions at $2.5 billion per year.
It indicates that the cumulative cost during the two decades is equivalent to three times the West Bank GDP in 2020 and over 2.5 times the Palestinian GDP in the same year.
Area C of the occupied West Bank accounts for about 60% of the West Bank and incorporates all Israeli settlements. It is under Israeli civil and security control, the report noted.
Despite several UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that emphasize the illegality, under international law, of settlements and the acquisition of territory by force, they continue to grow and expand.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the West Bank was split into three administrative divisions, with Area A controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Area B under split control and Area C remaining fully under Israeli control.
Area C, which is the only contiguous section of the West Bank and contains the most fertile land and valuable natural resources, was supposed to be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction, according to the accords, but that has not happened.
Instead, Area C is today home to around 400,000 settlers, with 70% of the land under their control and off limits for Palestinian development.
Meanwhile, Palestinian access to the remainder of Area C (30%) remains heavily restricted.
The report stressed 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.
It underscored the importance of lifting all restrictions on Palestinian economic activity in Area C.
“Ending such restrictions would provide the Palestinian economy with a badly needed economic and natural resource base for developing their economy and reversing the current trend of deepening fiscal crisis and increasing socioeconomic deprivation.”
The report affirmed that ending the occupation of Area C of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is critical for the sustainable development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory because it will enable the Palestinian people to grow their economy several fold.
It indicated, citing different sources, that the occupying power provides generous incentives to settlers and entrepreneurs to facilitate industrial and agricultural ventures, which have encouraged hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens to move to the subsidized settlements, where living standards are, on average, higher than in Israel.
According to the report, an array of restrictions imposed by the occupying power have constrained economic activities and the movement of people and goods in Areas A, B and C.
They include a ban on the importation of certain technology and inputs, a stringent permit regime, bureaucratic controls, checkpoints, gates, earth mounds, roadblocks and trenches in addition to the Separation Wall.
The report estimates the cost of these additional restrictions at 25% of the West Bank’s GDP and the annual contribution of these settlements to the economy of the occupying power at $41 billion or 227% of the total Palestinian GDP in 2021.
The report stressed that Palestinian access to all of Area C 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.