Israel Helps PA Economy, Lets More Workers In

Israel’s latest measures to improve the PA economy include approval of construction projects, more permits, and more Gaza exports.

Elad Benari ,

Israel-PA conference of agricultural exports
Israel-PA conference of agricultural exports
Israel news photo: IDF / CoGAT

Israel’s Foreign Ministry publicized on Wednesday a series of Israeli measures to improve the Palestinian Authority economy, currently facing the worst crisis since its 1994 establishment.

The measures, which are found in a report prepared by the Middle Eastern Economic Affairs Bureau, include project approvals in Area C. Since the beginning of 2011, 328 projects in Area C have been approved. To date, 53 approved projects haven't yet begun due to lack of funding.

As well, more permits for PA Arabs working in Israel have been issued. On September 27, 2012, the number of permits for PA Arabs to work in Israel was increased by 5,000. To date, there are 46,450 permits approved, of which 34,118 are being used.

Since February 2011, Israel increased the number of work permits by 49% (15,250 permits). In 2012 alone, Israel has added 10,000 permits. In addition, 24,660 PA Arabs are employed by Israelis in Judea and Samaria. The average salary of a PA Arab worker in Israel or employed by an Israeli in Judea and Samaria is twice the average salary paid by a PA Arab employer.

Israel has also increased the permits PA Arabs receive for overnight stay in Israel. The number of permits was recently increased by 40% (2,000 permits).To date, there are 7,000 overnight permits in circulation, 4,213 of which are in use.

As well, noted the Foreign Ministry, the number of entry permits for PA Arab merchants into Israel was recently increased by 1,000. To date, there are 17,750 entry permits for PA merchants, 15,700 of which are in use. These permits allow for multiple entrances and departures to and from Israel for commercial purposes, and are usually valid for two months.

Israel has also approved internationally funded and monitored projects in Gaza. Since 2011, 235 projects have been approved. In September 2012 alone, 16 new projects were approved.

Trade has expanded between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, noted the Foreign Ministry. Before the new school year began, three truckloads of furniture for schools in Judea and Samaria were transferred from Gaza.

Israel has supported the private sector in Gaza, and has approved the transfer of raw materials for private sector construction, including roof tiles, building stones, dry wall, mosaics, adhesives, plaster, etc.

These materials were removed from the list of banned dual-use products and are now allowed for import. Permits were also obtained for ten refrigeration trucks supporting the agricultural sector, allowing for increased export of agricultural products to Judea and Samaria and abroad.  Additionally, the weekly quota for commercial vehicles entering Gaza from Israel was increased from 80 to 100.

100 million shekels (roughly 25 million dollars) were transferred from Judea and Samaria to Gaza in September, at the request of the Palestinian Authority.

As part of Israeli measures initiated during the month of Ramadan, noted the Foreign Ministry, Israel is allowing PA Arabs who don't own land there to enter the Jordan Valley, subject to periodic situation reviews by the relevant security experts. This is a significant improvement for PA Arabs in Judea and Samaria and it has been in effect since the beginning of the month of Ramadan.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned several months ago that the Palestinian Authority may soon fail financially and cease to exist. At the same time and despite Israel’s help, Fayyad also recently chose to blame Israel for the Palestinian Authority's financial troubles.

Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide backed Fayyad on this last month, when he said that the crisis was caused by Israel's restrictions on the economy in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, as well slower growth and smaller donor payments.

Widespread corruption, inflated salaries, payment to imprisoned terrorists, boycott of Israeli products and prohibition against working for Israelis, are the main reasons for the crisis, but remain unaddressed.

Recent protests over the economy in the PA prompted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to order the transfer of a 250 million shekel advance to the PA from tax revenues collected by Israel.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas “repaid” Israel for its financial aid with a virulently anti-Israel speech in the UN General Assembly, in which he accused Israel of ethnic cleansing in Judea and Samaria and of murdering and abusing Arabs.