With continued restrictions and fiscal austerity, the real obstacle to growth in occupied Palestinian territory is the Israeli occupation, according to a UN report.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, the Israeli occupation has almost eliminated marketing and investment opportunities and has constricted land and natural resources available for productive activities in the Palestinian territory.
“All efforts should focus on preventing further encroachment by settlements on and occupation of the Palestinian productive base.” – UNCTAD report
The report also highlighted that economic expansion last year was accompanied by a decline in real wages and labour productivity and did not succeed in reducing high unemployment, which persisted at 26 per cent.
The report notes that the high economic growth recorded last year through early 2012 is not sustainable because it is tied to reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, poverty and food insecurity remain endemic, the report notes.
In addition, the UNCTAD report shows that food insecurity affects two of every three Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, but is most severe in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the poverty rate in East Jerusalem, estimated at 78 per cent, is also alarming, UNCTAD reported.
In June this year, a new United Nations report revealed that Palestinian development is hampered by ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements.
The UN report highlighted that the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories remains “extremely worrying and precarious.”
According to the International Labour Organization, the ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, which is to be an essential part of a future Palestinian state continues to be under full Israeli control, with Palestinians denied access to their livelihoods and to one another.
The report noted that the deteriorating conditions for workers are due to the realities of the occupation on the ground and the unabated expansion of Israeli settlements.
The report also noted the need for the Middle East peace process to encompass institutions and policies for job creation, social dialogue, gender equality, social security, and fair incomes.
In addition, it called initiatives to improve education, stop the demolition of schools in the West Bank, and stop the erosion of skills in Gaza.
ILO noted that the findings of the report are based on a mission sent earlier this year to the occupied Arab territories and Israel to assess the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
In February this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the ongoing Israeli occupations are illegal and impede Palestinian economic viability in the West Bank.
In his remarks at the UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, which is taking place in Cairo, Mr. Ban renewed his call for progress in the Middle East peace process.
Mr. Ban also higlighted the toll taken on the economy and lives of the Palestinians by the ongoing Israeli occupation.
He stressed economic progress cannot be reached and sustained absent a credible political solution on the horizon.
The UN chief got a first-hand look at the situation on the ground and challenges on the road to peace during his trip to the region last week. He visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
He noted that settlements and their infrastructure severely restrict access to land and natural resources by the Palestinian people.
He also called once again for immediate action on the closure of the Gaza Strip. He stressed that the full opening of legitimate crossings for the import of construction materials is critical for Gaza’s economic recovery.
He urged both parties to renew dialogue and find a solution to end the long-standing conflict between the two countries.
Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War in 1967, but annexed the city as its united capital in a move not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of their future State.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since late September last year following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity. That decision prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.