The Palestinian Authority (PA) economy could expand by over a third if Israel were to lift its restrictions on about 60 percent of Judea and Samaria that it controls, the World Bank said in a report published Tuesday, as the IMF prepares to inject the PA with more cash. However, a top official in Samaria (Shomron) said in response that the World Bank is playing a blame game in an effort to pin the corrupt PA's woes on Israel.
"More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians," said the World Bank report.
"The first comprehensive study of the potential impact of this 'restricted land,' released by the World Bank today, sets the current loss to the Palestinian economy at about US$3.4 billion (2.5 billion euros)," it added.
If businesses and farms were allowed to develop in the territory, "this would add as much as 35 percent to the Palestinian GDP", it estimated.
The World Bank report came about a fortnight after the Middle East Quartet published a plan to revive the ailing Palestinian economy, supposedly in an effort “to support peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The three-year "Palestinian Economic Initiative" would focus on private sector growth. It identified eight key sectors targeted for development, including construction and building materials, agriculture, energy and water, and tourism.
But local activist, David Ha'ivri, rebuffed such claims, saying that the report was simply a way of blaming Israel for the effects of rampant corruption and mismanagement of funds by the Palestinian Authority.
“It is no secret that over the last 20 years the international community has poured billions and billions of dollars into the PA in order to help the Palestinian people develop their economy. It is also no secret that most of that money was embezzled by the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] functionaries, their families and friends.
“Now it is convenient for those who should be accountable for this to come around and blame Israel instead.
“But, in reality the development of Jewish communities and industrial parks in Judea and Samaria provide more real value and benefit to the local Arab population than all of the aid money that has evaporated over the years.”