'Israeli-PA cooperation continues despite tensions'

Foreign Ministry report details medical, security and economic coordination between Israel, PA.

Palestinian laborer in Kedar_370 (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Palestinian laborer in Kedar_370
(photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Nearly 200,000 West Bank Palestinian patients and those accompanying them were granted entry permits in 2011 for medical treatment in Israel, a 13 percent increase from 2010, according to a Foreign Ministry report.
The report, titled “Measures Taken by Israel in Support of Developing the Palestinian Economy and Socio-Economic Structure,” will be submitted Wednesday at a Palestinian donors’ conference meeting in Brussels.
According to the report, some 21,500 Palestinian children from the West Bank were also treated in Israeli hospitals last year, a 171% increase from the year before.
The 44-page report documents areas of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in a number of health, economic and security spheres.
For instance, despite the stymied political process and the tense relationship between the government and the Palestinian Authority, in 2011 some 764 joint security meetings were held, a 5% increase over the year before.
The donors’ conference, formally known as the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), will be chaired by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
The AHLC was established in 1993 during the heyday of the Oslo Accords, and is the principal policy-level coordinating mechanism for international aid to the Palestinians.
According to the report, “maintaining security and preventing terrorism is critical in order to promote stability and economic development on the ground.” Despite improved security coordination and “relative calm,” 2011 saw a 10% rise in overall terrorist incidents emanating from the West Bank, as well as an increase in the number of Israelis killed in terrorist attacks – from eight people in 2010, to 10 in 2011.
By contrast, in 2002, at the height of the second intifada, some 452 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks.
According to the report, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) noted that during 2011, “Hamas has been trying to rehabilitate its military infrastructure in the West Bank in order to carry out attacks against Israeli targets.”
“Hamas leadership abroad has provided funding, guidance and training for the establishment of terrorist infrastructure,” the report continues.
“Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been involved as well, attempting to move weaponry into the West Bank and providing funding for terrorist activities.”
Not all of 2011’s security cooperation, however, dealt with terrorism. According to the report, three study days were held for a joint group of Israeli and Palestinian police, in cooperation with the EU.
The study days dealt with routine police work, such as methods for gathering evidence and addressing drug trafficking.
Meetings were also held between the head of the Israeli police unit combating auto theft and members of the department in the Palestinian police force dealing with “chop shops,” where stolen cars are disassembled and their parts sold.
In the economic sphere, the report points out that after three years of rapid economic growth in the West Bank, there was a slowdown in the first three quarters of 2011. Unemployment was at 17 %, with the rate going up to 20% among those with academic degrees.
By contrast, in the Gaza Strip the real GDP climbed by 25.8% in the first three quarters of 2011, due in large part to the Israel’s policy of easing up on the products allowed in and out.
The PA is also facing a fiscal crisis caused to a large extent – but not exclusively – by a shortfall in donor aid.
“The fiscal crisis is especially acute because much of the West Bank economy still depends on the public sector and on construction projects, both still heavily financed by foreign aid,” the report stated.
“It also serves as an alarming warning sign for the stability of the Palestinian economy.”
Calling into question the PA’s fiscal management and readiness for statehood, the report said there were “deviations in the Palestinian 2011 budget,” as the Palestinians spent more on development expenditures than was available.
“The public finance management system’s role in the current crisis may undermine its track record as a system that meets the requirements of a well-functioning state,” the report stated.
According to the report, the number of Palestinians employed in Israel and by Israeli employers in the West Bank continued to rise. In 2011 some 31,414 Palestinians worked in Israel.
This, however, was just a small percentage of the number that worked in Israel before various waves of terrorism. For instance, until a wave of Palestinian knife attacks in Israel in early 1993, an estimated 140,000 Palestinian day laborers worked inside the Green Line.
The tax that Israel collects at its ports and then transfers to the PA reached NIS 5 billion in 2011, an increase of almost 6% from the year before. This is money that generally makes headlines when it is held up by Israel, as was the case in November when Jerusalem delayed its transfer after the PA won membership in UNESCO.
According to the report, Israeli purchases from the PA constituted about 90% of all Palestinian exports. Overall trade with the PA (goods and services) totaled $4.3 billion, with Israel buying $815 million of goods from the PA and selling it $3.49 billion.