by Stephen McDonald, Communications Consultant, Canada-Israel Committee
A quick list of the various ways in which Israel has raised the quality of life for Palestinians, and strengthened hopes for peace and prosperity in the region.
- Enabled Palestinian Authority security forces to assume control of major cities in the West Bank.
Since 2008, Israel has handed over security responsibilities to five American trained Palestinian Security Forces battalions – which now carry out operations in major West Bank cities including Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, and Hebron. By next year, an additional five battalions will be trained and ready for deployment.
- Maintained and strengthened a massive humanitarian aid supply to the people of Gaza.
UNRWA estimates there are currently 4.7 million Palestinian refugees (the only refugee group which counts descendants as refugees). The resettlement of millions of Palestinians in Israel, rather than a future Palestinian state, would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state – and the concept of two states for two peoples.
- Transferred billions in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority.
Last year alone, Israel handed over 4.3 million shekels in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, an increase of 12% over 2008. These transfers have proven critical in financing self-governed services for Palestinians and easing dependence on foreign aid, through a regular, domestic source of revenue.
- Paved the way for an economic surge in the West Bank – largely by providing for greater freedom of travel.
Since April of 2008, Israel has removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank, including at key points along the territory’s major north-south artery (Route 60). In accordance with a handover of security duties to the Palestinian Authority, these measures have provided enormous confidence and mobility for Palestinians. The results are impressive. Last year, the West Bank GDP grew by nearly 7% – in the middle of a global downturn. Major indicators are all positive, with a decrease in the unemployment rate, a substantial increase in Israel-West Bank traffic, and a 25% increase in imports (not including from Israel).
- Allowed more West Bank Palestinians to enter Israel for work.
In the past five years, Israel has steadily increased the number of permits enabling Palestinians to work in Israel. Last year, the daily average number of working permits surpassed 26,000 – a substantial leap from just under 11,000 in 2006.