Our last post mentioned a UNESCO report to the European donors’ conference in Amsterdam last month. This group, known commonly as the “Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), also received a report form the Government of Israel on the measures taken by Israel to support the Palestinian economy and to encourage enterprise and growth in the PA-controlled areas.
The UNESCO report highlighted that financial issues are putting the Palestinian efforts to create a state at “increased risk“. The Israeli report echoes this, pointing out that, not only has the PA suffered from the effects of the worldwide financial turmoil, but also that it only enjoys limited support from the Arab states. A brief extract from the report’s executive summary, however, gives an indication of how much support Israel is pouring into the PA in one form or another…
“In 2011, Israel continued to implement its policy of support for economic growth in the West Bank, inter alia by removing additional check points, upgrading commercial crossings, approving projects in Area C, increasing the number of permits for Palestinian employment in Israel, and pushing forward an agreement to build four electricity substations in the West Bank to increase the amount of electricity available for further economic development.
Israel maintained bilateral dialogues with the PA aimed at supporting the upgrade of Palestinian infrastructure, including: financial and customs services, water and sewage infrastructure, the agriculture sector, and the electricity network. Israel worked closely with the international community in order to support projects, facilitate trade and contribute to improved Palestinian governance and economic capacity.”
Despite the bold international headlines about failed peace processes and so on, Israel and the PA do actually talk to each other and even trade together. Trade, security co-ordination, import/export and a number of other parameters have all increased since last year, and not in small amounts…
“Overall Israeli trade with the PA (goods and services) totaled USD 4.308 billion, an increase of 2.1% compared to 2010. Israeli purchases from the PA amounted to USD 815.9 million, an increase of 18.3%. Israeli sales to the PA amounted to USD 3.492 billion, a decrease of 1.1% compared to 2010.1 Tax revenue transferred by Israel to the PA increased by 5.9%2. A higher volume of commercial goods was shipped from the West Bank via the land crossings to Israel. In 2011, there was a 33% increase in commercial movement of goods via the Allenby Bridge.
So just why would Israel want to do so much trade with people who in recent history have just wanted to lob rocks, bullets and rockets in her direction? The answer, I believe, is twofold. I believe that there is an honest wish to see the lives of individual Palestinian Arabs improve. Coupled with this is a policy decision to work on peace “from the bottom up” as well as “from the top down” (expressed in a communique by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Tony Blair over a year ago). In real terms this means that, while high level negotiating teams are trading land deals and “red lines”, businessmen from Ramallah are talking to their opposite numbers in Tel Aviv or Haifa and trading real goods.
Isn’t it ironic that the boycotts campaigns in Britain strive to stop us buying fruit and veg. from “illegal settlements” while the PA has no qualms about buying from the “zionist entity” and Palestinians are happy to find employment in settlements on the West bank!
Of course, the biggest bonus for Israel of promoting a “bottom up” peace process is that nothing knocks the heart out of terrorist propaganda so much as ordinary people finding that life is easier, there is more money in their pockets and their children can focus on school work more than on rock-throwing. When these things begin to happen, peace spreads quietly and insidiously through all levels of society and weakens the desire for intifada and revolution. Long may Israel’s economic support of the Palestinians continue!
You can read the full report presented by the Israeli Government here.