'PA economy must be liberated'

PA finance minister designate calls for less dependance on Israeli imports.

pals with shekels, happy (photo credit: AP [file])
pals with shekels, happy
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Finance Minister-designate Ziad Thatha, in an interview Friday to a Palestinian newspaper, called for "liberating" the Palestinian economy from its dependence on Israel and said he wants to increase imports from neighbouring Arab countries. Slamming the 1994 Paris protocol, which regulates the economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinian autonomous areas, Thatha told the Ramallah-based al-Ayyam daily that the agreement "is the main reason for the (Palestinian) economic decline." The Paris protocol is part of the 1993 Oslo accords and established a customs union between Israel and the occupied territories, or a free-trade zone which imposes common custom duties only on goods entering from outside the zone. Israeli goods sold to the Palestinians do not have to go through customs, and vice versa, although goods passing to Israel do undergo strict security checks. Under the protocol, Israel collects customs on behalf of the PA on goods entering the West Bank and Gaza via its ports and airport, but it has stopped transferring the money since Hamas won the elections in January 2005 and formed a government one year ago. "I intend to work to liberate the economy from the chain of the Paris economic protocol in a way that would uplift our national economy and liberate it from the imposed ties to the Israeli economy through opening up to Arab economies," said Thatha, a Hamas official who served as public works minister in the outgoing government. "The 800 million dollars of Palestinian money Israel is withholding is a result of this agreement," he said. The vast majority of products sold in Palestinian supermarkets, including food and other basic goods, are from Israel. Thatha, appointed by Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya to the new Hamas-Fatah unity government due to be sworn in Saturday, said he instead wants to increase imports via Egypt and Jordan.