The latest report on Palestine by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) displays the increasing deterioration of the Palestinian economy as a result of dependence upon Israel and the ongoing Israeli military occupation. The Palestinian economy is reported to be “near collapse”, while Gaza is deemed “increasingly becoming unliveable”, echoing the UN warnings that the enclave would reach the threshold by 2020.
Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Khaled Ossaili responded to the report by stating that the PA is “moving forward in disengaging from the economy of the occupying power by taking more decisions that will enhance and strengthen our national economy.” Seeking amendments to the Paris Protocol, which makes the Palestinian economy subservient to Israeli demands, is one measure mentioned by Ossaili. Donor countries, he said, should be urged to “shoulder their responsibilities in ending the Israeli occupation,” while liaising with the PA’s economic strategy.
UNCTAD’s detailed report shows the extent of Palestinian dependence on humanitarian and financial aid, to the point that it is difficult to envisage an economy that builds on its own resources. The discrepancies between the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are also of consideration. The absence of investment in Gaza, as well as the blockade and the need for reconstruction after Israeli aggressions, has increased Gaza’s dependence on aid – never enough for the people to recover from the destruction of its closed space.
In the occupied West Bank, economic restrictions are forcing Palestinians into employment in Israel’s illegal settlements. The report makes one important observation when it comes to low-skilled labour and the preference for Palestinians over foreign labour: “A crucial difference is that Palestinian workers return to the West Bank at the end of the workday and thus do not have an impact on the demographic structure of Israel.”
It is also worth remembering that the PA exacerbated Gaza’s deprivation through sanctions in order to attempt to wrest political control of the enclave away from Hamas. Adding the PA strategy to Israel’s colonial violence emphasises the fragmented politics that hinder even the slightest change in terms of setting a foundation upon which new policies can be developed, hence a continuous cycle of dependence.
Palestinians have also been unable to access their natural resources of oil and gas, following Israel’s territorial arrangements which confiscated and integrated the areas with Israel. Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestinian territory is estimated to have contributed to a loss of $67.9 billion when it comes to natural resources.
UNCTAD’s report, however, ties Palestine’s possibilities for prosperity to the two-state compromise. This consistent referral unravels the role which Palestinian potential should play in its own economy. Again, humanitarian aid and international impositions upon Palestinian politics and the people are failing to construct any possibilities for Palestinian independence and liberation. If donor aid increases, aspects of poverty and deprivation will be temporarily alleviated, no doubt. It is, however, a perpetual cycle which the international community has inflicted upon Palestinians for two main reasons that so far remain unchangeable: the protection of Israel’s colonial project and accumulating losses for Palestinians in order to maintain the imposed definition of a population needing assistance.
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