The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) revealed that the tighter Israeli restrictions and military operations in the West Bank have devastated the livelihood of the majority of Palestinians for at least 20 years, creating enormous obstacles to economic and social development.
These restrictions also have generated widespread poverty, impeded development, led to conflicts in many Palestinian cities, and then prevented them from being settled, UNCTAD emphasized.
According to the latest UNCTAD report to the UN General Assembly, the cumulative economic cost of the tighter Israeli closure policy, restrictions, and military operations in the West Bank since 2000 is estimated at $57.7 billion.
The closure policy and restrictions were imposed by Israel after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in September 2000.
The report, called “Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: Poverty in the West Bank 2000–2019”, estimates that the cost is equivalent to three and a half times the occupied Palestinian territory’s GDP in 2019.
According to the report statistics, the minimum cost of eliminating poverty in the West Bank increased six times between1998 and 2007; from $73 million (constant 2015 US$) to $428 million.
Poverty and inequality rose dramatically in the aftermath of the second Intifada only to return to their pre-second Intifada level nearly two decades later, the report noted.
In the recent report, the UNCTAD experts revealed that the immediate effect of the tighter Israeli restrictions imposed on the West Bank after the second Intifada was a drastic fall in living standards and that the poorer segments of the population were affected more than anyone.
The report’s projections indicated that without the Israeli closures, restrictions, and military operations in the West Bank in the aftermath of the second Intifada, the poverty rate in the West Bank in 2004 would have been 12%, one-third of the observed 35%.
The recent estimate said that the West Bank GDP per capita in 2019 would have been 44% higher than its actual value ($4,823) to reach $6,964 (constant 2015 US$).
Without the jobs in Israel and its settlements, unemployment in the West Bank would have been much
higher and would have almost reached the extremely high rates in the besieged Gaza Strip, which
averaged 39.8% between 2007 and 2019, the report warned.
“The West Bank has gone through two decades of jobless growth and arrested development.”
In response to this issue, the latest report called for the lifting of all the mobility restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory and for the re-establishment of the contiguity of the territory by reconnecting East Jerusalem, all the cities and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with each other.
It also urged Israel to enable the Palestinian public and private sectors to establish and operate agricultural, industrial, commercial, and mining businesses in Area C (more than 60% of the West Bank area).