Thursday, August 27, 2009

A List Of Measures Israel Is Taking To Boost The West Bank Economy

The following is an article from the AIPAC website:
Israeli Measures in West Bank Boosting Economy

Israeli steps to improve travel and boost economic activity are having a significant impact on the economy of the West Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the West Bank will grow at a seven percent rate this year amid one of the worst global recessions in decades. As the security situation in the West Bank has improved, Israel has removed nearly 150 roadblocks and checkpoints, including two dozen manned barriers, opened major crossings to spur trade and allowed significantly more Palestinian businessmen and workers to enter Israel. U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell praised Israel's efforts, saying during his visit to Jerusalem this week that "Israel has taken meaningful steps in the West Bank."

Israel has taken major steps to improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank despite ongoing security risks.

  • Israel has decreased the number of manned roadblocks within the West Bank by over 70 percent-from 35 to 10-in the last several months, dramatically enhancing freedom of movement and reducing travel time for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians despite real security risks.

  • Palestinians can now travel throughout most of the northern West Bank without encountering security checks, including in Nablus, which is subject only to occasional security checks.

  • In Ramallah, the main checkpoint north of the city is no longer permanently staffed. In Qalqiliya, Israel has completely dismantled one of the two major checkpoints maintaining access into the city, and the other is no longer permanently staffed.

  • Israel also took a major step to increase business activity and improve the lives of Palestinians by opening the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank 24 hours a day to commercial traffic.

  • Israel has dramatically increased access to Israel for key Palestinian businessmen and is boosting the number of Palestinians working inside Israel.

  • The Israel Defense Forces is considering additional measures to boost the Palestinian economy and ease West Bank movement and access, including the removal of more than 100 dirt security barriers.

  • In addition, the Israeli government has spearheaded a variety of economic development projects in the West Bank and limited military action in Palestinian cities.

  • U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell praised Israel's efforts, saying during a recent visit to Jerusalem for meetings with top leaders that "Israel has taken meaningful steps in the West Bank."

  • The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a recent report that "initial field observations indicate that these measures have significantly reduced the amount of time required for Palestinians to access these cities."

  • While some, including the United States, have noted and applauded Israel's major bottom-up effort, Quartet envoy Tony Blair says Israel is receiving insufficient international credit for its work to stimulate the Palestinian economy.

The economy in the West Bank has improved amid a series of Israeli steps designed to spur business activity.

  • The Israeli measures have helped dramatically improve the West Bank economy. Amid the worst global recession in decades, the IMF is forecasting a 7 percent growth rate for the area for 2009.

  • Improved economic activity in the West Bank that began last year amid steps by the previous government is being further strengthened. In 2008, trade between Israel and the West Bank grew by more than 40 percent to more than $4 billion. The increase in trade was facilitated by improvements at major cargo crossings, which saw an 82 percent increase in truck crossings.

  • In one of the worst global real estate markets in decades, Palestinians are planning to start building the first new Palestinian town in decades early next year, while a high-end home furnishings chain, Herbawi Home Furnishings, is investing tens of millions of dollars to open several stores.

  • The greater loosening of travel restrictions for Israelis entering the West Bank has allowed thousands of Israeli Arabs to travel to Palestinian cities to shop and dine, significantly boosting the economy in Jericho, Jenin and Nablus. On Saturdays, more than 50 percent of the merchants' income in Nablus comes from Israeli Arabs, according to local businessmen.

  • A doubling in foreign investment in West Bank infrastructure has created jobs and improved living conditions. The U.S. is spending tens of millions of dollars to upgrade nearly 20 roads, while Germany is providing more than $50 million in funding for sewage treatment plants.

The improved security situation in the West Bank is allowing Israel to take risks by easing security and travel restrictions.

  • Israel is working closely with the United States and the PA to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of security forces in the West Bank.

  • In concert with U.S. Security Coordinator General Keith Dayton, Israel has supported the training of more than 3,000 Palestinian security personnel at a Jordanian training base.

  • Israel's support for such high-level training of Palestinian security forces does not come without risk. During the height of Palestinian terrorism against Israel in the early 2000s, Palestinian security forces were heavily involved in attacks against Israeli civilians.

  • Despite this risk, Israel has worked with Palestinian security officials to extend the hours Palestinian forces can operate in four key cities-Ramallah, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem and Jericho. The forces now operate freely 24 hours a day to handle criminal activity and maintain order.

  • Israel has facilitated the transfer of a substantial quantity of arms to the PA, including 900 rifles, one million bullets, and logistical equipment, including surveillance and communication gear. In the past, such equipment has been used in attacks against Israel.

  • Israel has approved the establishment of 20 new Palestinian police stations in the West Bank, 19 of which have opened.

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