Israel's West Bank occupation, closures since 2000 exact $58B toll: UN report

Israel's West Bank occupation, closures since 2000 exact $58B toll: UN report

Report shows West Bank suffered 2 decades of halted development, poverty

News Service AA

A tighter Israeli closure policy, restrictions and military operations in the West Bank since 2000 have exacted an economic toll on Palestinians estimated at $57.7 billion, a UN report said Wednesday.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) report examined Israel's policies after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, in September 2000.

"We estimate that something like a third of real GDP, whether measured in absolute or per capita terms, has been removed as a consequence of the mechanisms of occupation," UNCTAD's Development Director Richard Kozul-Wright said at a news conference. "There's a precariousness that comes with these kinds of macroeconomic conditions constantly being reproduced," due to the cost of occupation.

The report, "Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: Poverty in the West Bank 2000–2019," estimates the cost was equivalent to three and a half times the occupied Palestinian territory's GDP in 2019.

It indicates that the minimum cost of eliminating poverty in the West Bank increased six times between 1998 and 2007, from $73 million to $428 million.

- Rising poverty

Poverty and inequality rose dramatically following the second Intifada, returning to the pre-second Intifada level nearly two decades later.

The report showed a drastic fall in living standards, indicating that poorer people were hit the hardest.

Without Israeli operations in the West Bank after the second Intifada, the West Bank poverty rate in 2004 would have been 12%, one-third of the observed 35%.

The West Bank GDP per capita in 2019 would have been 44% higher than its actual value, $4,823 to reach $6,964, said UNCTAD.

Decades of jobless growth triggered an economic contraction to one-third of its size between 2000 and 2002 affected all economic sectors for at least 20 years, said the report.

While the regional economy in the West Bank grew by 6.2% annually from 2007, growth was volatile, ranging from 13.1% in 2008 to 1.6% in 2019.

That volatility is associated with a weak capacity for employment generation.

The West Bank's unemployment rate was high, hovering around 18% between 2007 and 2019.

The constrained regional economy hobbled job generation, forcing Palestinians to seek employment in Israel and its settlements.

Without those jobs, West Bank unemployment would have been much higher and almost reached extreme rates in the besieged Gaza Strip, which averaged 39.8% between 2007 and 2019.

"Even with the employment in Israel, the West Bank regional economy has not been able to reduce or stabilize its unemployment rate since 1999," said the report. "In other words, the West Bank has gone through two decades of jobless growth and arrested development."


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