Browsing Posts tagged West Bank

With most of the world still struggling to climb out of an economic recession, one of the last places on earth most would guess is enjoying near double-digit growth is in the Palestinian Territories. According to the International Monetary Fund, real GDP growth in the first half of 2010 was 9 percent in the West Bank and 16 percent in Gaza. Unemployment dropped by three percent in the first quarter of 2010, as a result of Palestinian construction projects increasing by 20 percent since 2009.

Photo: Bjørn Svenungsen, UD

With checkpoints being removed by Israel, barriers to movement are being removed not just for trucks and movement of goods but everyday people. Israel’s Crossings Management Agency noted a 57 percent increase in pedestrians entering Israel in 2009 from 2008 (2010 numbers are not in yet but projected to continue to grow). In Gaza, following the Government of Israel’s June 20th cabinet decision to ease the restriction on the passage of goods into Gaza, the number of trucks getting in per week went from 385 in the end of May to over 1,100 weekly in the first week of July.

All of this is in Israel’s report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which monitors how resources from donor countries are improving the situation between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. The AHLC, which is based and chaired Norway (think Oslo), will be meeting on September 21st in New York with its 16 other member states.

The entire report by Israel is online, right here.

On Tuesday evening on Highway 60, near Hebron, four Israeli civilians, one of whom was pregnant, were gunned down in their car in a hail of gunfire. “The vehicle was sprayed with dozens of bullets,” a paramedic at the scene told Israel’s Channel Two. “There were numerous shell casings around. We found four bodies and there was no chance whatsoever to help them; all we could do was to pronounce [their] death.”

The victims included two men, ages 25 and 40, along with two women of similar age. continue reading…

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the history of the State of Israel, never have there been preconditions for face-to-face peace talks. While it was not obligated to do so, the Israeli government last November ordered a 10-month freeze in new building projects in the West Bank.

This sign of good faith, the outward stretch of our hands in friendship with the Palestinians, has been rejected for seven months. Now the Palestinians are calling for the freeze to be extended.

The goal of the freeze was to encourage Palestinians to come to peace talks, but rather than embracing this moment, many are foolishly waiting for it to end so another freeze can be used as a “precondition for peace talks.” continue reading…

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Albert Einstein once said.

Since 1993, successive governments, supported by the international community, have tried to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using the flawed paradigm of land for peace. Each time, the same formula was attempted, but failed every time because of Arab recalcitrance. continue reading…

The only Christian TV station in the West Bank has been shut down by the Palestinian Authority after 14 years on the air. Al-Mahed “Nativity” TV sits just a stone’s throw from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, believed by many Christians, Muslims and even Jews to be the site of Jesus’ birth.

As stated on its own website, Al-Mahed’s “Nativity” TV’s mission is “to help in building a Palestinian civil society, based on the principles of freedom, democracy, pluralism, anti-discrimination and equality of all in front of the law.”

According to the station’s general manager Samir Qumsieh, Al-Mahed “Nativity” TV was shut down for not paying additional money for a “license,” despite having operated with great Palestinian support for over a decade. While silencing voices may be par for the course in Hamas-controlled Gaza, this decision by the PA in the West Bank is disturbing and hopefully not a portent of things to come.

To read more, click here.

Photo provided by Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Ambassador Oren

West Bank Success Story

The Palestinians are flourishing economically.  Unless they live in Gaza.

By Michael B. Oren

Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today’s gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank’s financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.

Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

The West Bank’s economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the “top down” issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank’s population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “economic peace” are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.

The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.

The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.

Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

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We would like to clarify a statement made in Ethan Bronner’s July 16th New York Times article, “Signs of Hope Emerge in the West Bank.”

Statement:

“Israel has promised to free a second frequency so that a competitor to Paltel can provide cell phone service, but it has not yet done so.”

Clarification:

Israel supplied a second cell phone frequency earlier this year, in accordance with its July 28, 2008 agreement with the Palestinian Authority to supply the necessary frequencies for a second cellular company.

The agreement is founded upon Israel’s commitment to assist in improving economic conditions in the West Bank. Unfortunately, competition between Palestinian cellular companies has resulted in this frequency going unused to date.

Furthermore, Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak wrote a letter this week to Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad reiterating the fact that the second frequency has been supplied and is available for use.