The European Commission issued a statement Monday blaming Israel for the fact that aid money has not succeeded in stabilizing the Palestinian Authority economy. Despite decades of aid, much of it from Europe, the PA economy remains in shambles.
According to the commission, the fault lies with Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Jews take fertile land that could otherwise be used for Arab agriculture and their presence leads to restrictions on Arab travel, spokesmen said. Travel restrictions also harm the PA economy, they claimed.
"It is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this [PA] dependence” on aid, the commission concluded.
The EU funds the PA and Gaza to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. European countries have poured $280 million in aid into PA coffers in the first half of 2009 alone.
Despite the aid, the PA regularly reports a budget deficit. Much of the budget goes to pay salaries – the PA employs roughly 160,000 people, including many PA loyalists in Gaza who receive paychecks despite being without work since the Hamas takeover in 2007.
The World Bank warned last year that the PA is becoming more dependent on foreign aid, not less. Bank officials blamed Israel for the situation as well.
One of the few who - until recently - did not blame Israel for the PA's poor economy was current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Prior to his appointment, Fayyad admitted that the PA was losing millions of dollars in aid each year due to a faulty system in which money was spent with no tracking process.
The PA pays thousands of workers who never show up, and hires more workers at a rapid rate, he told Britain's Daily Telegraph.
Yesha Jews: EU Statement Ridiculous, Farfetched
Samaria spokesman David HaIvri termed the EU's accusations “untruthful” and “farfetched.” The statement “is so ridiculous that it is hard to gather together a reply,” he said.
If anything, HaIvri said, the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria has been beneficial to the local Arab economy. Many PA Arab residents of the region have been hired to work in Jewish-run factories and businesses, he explained, adding, “Not only are we not hurting their economy, but our being here improves their economy greatly."
The charge that Jews take fertile lands, thus harming Arab agriculture, is absurd, HaIvri said. Jewish agriculture in Judea and Samaria “is on lands that were not productive in recent history... It is not taking place on lands that were cultivated by Arabs previously,” he said.
As an example, HaIvri pointed to Jewish wineries in Judea and Samaria, several of which have been very successful, employing dozens and creating prize-winning wines. The wineries were built on land that was so rocky when Jews began farming that hundreds of thousands of dollars had to be invested simply to clear the earth so planting could begin, he said.