Israel: Economic surge in W. Bank

Unprecedented coordination, real effort by PA against Hamas led to boost.

Palestinian flag 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Palestinian flag 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Unprecedented military coordination and a sincere effort by the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Hamas has led to a unique economic surge in the West Bank in the past year, according to an internal Defense Ministry report obtained on Monday by The Jerusalem Post. Prepared by the IDF's Civil Administration, the report cites a three percent drop to 16% in Palestinian unemployment since the beginning of the year. In addition, the report cites a 24% increase in Palestinian average daily wages, up from NIS 70 in 2007 to NIS 86.9. The stats were collected in recent months from a variety of sources, including the PA and the United Nations International Labor Organization. Since the beginning of the year, the IDF has also removed 113 roadblocks and dirt mounds throughout the West Bank, enabling easier travel between Palestinian cities. Officers in the Civil Administration said the economic surge was the result of a number of parallel factors but was mainly due to improved coordination between Israel and the PA, as well as a decision by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to make a concerted effort to stop Hamas' build-up in the West Bank. "On the one hand, there is the Israeli policy to separate Gaza from the West Bank and improve the reality on the ground in the West Bank," one officer noted. "There is also the PA, which is fighting for its survival and understands that it needs to fight against elements that could undermine its regime like Hamas and Islamic Jihad." The officer noted the deployment of newly trained PA forces in Jenin, Hebron, Nablus and soon in Bethlehem as a demonstration of that effort. In addition to the increase in wages, the recently ended olive harvest also saw a major boom, jumping from NIS 200 million in revenue in 2007 to NIS 517.5m. in 2008. Military sources said that the IDF-PA coordination was not the only factor - traditionally every other year is a bad harvest - but had contributed to the dramatic increase. There was also a 10% increase in the number of workers employed in settlements - up from 23,000 in 2007 to 26,000 in 2008, as well as a 10% increase in the permits issued for Palestinians working in Israel - 23,000 compared to 21,000 in 2007. Security coordination with the PA had also reached new heights, the report claimed, noting that 247 meetings had been held between IDF and Palestinian officers since the beginning of the year. In addition, the IDF has permitted the opening of 20 Palestinian Police stations throughout the West Bank that facilitate activities both in the rural areas and towns. Also, at the request of the PA, Israel facilitated the deployment of Palestinian Police Forces in Hebron in a successful attempt to challenge Hamas terrorist infrastructure and is currently in talks to allow the PA to reinforce forces in Bethlehem ahead of Christmas later this month.