Palestinians are losing out on billions of dollars due to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a UN report has found.
The report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development focused on a part of the West Bank called Area C, which covers 60 per cent of the territory and contains all the areas with Israeli settlements.
It is home to between 180,000 and 300,000 Palestinians and has a settler population of at least 325,500 across 125 settlements.
Restrictions on imports such as technology as well as checkpoints and permit regimes cost Palestinians about $2.5 billion per year over the past 20 years ― equivalent to three times the West Bank's total gross domestic product in 2020 — but the figure is a “fraction” of the total costs of the occupation, the report said.
The 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians stipulated that the West Bank be divided into three regions, with Area C due to come under the control of the Palestinian Authority in 1999.
Security and land management there remains under Israeli control, however, and settlement building continues unabated, leaving Palestinians isolated on “islands” under Palestinian control, surrounded by settlements or Israeli checkpoints.
Area C holds the most valuable natural resources, including fertile land, minerals, stone and tourist attractions, but is largely inaccessible to Palestinians, due to 70 per cent of the area being within the boundaries of the regional councils of settlement, the report found.
Researchers based their calculations on the remaining 30 per cent accessible to Palestinians.
UNCTAD calculated the potential GDP of the Palestinian territories that could have been realised in the area if it had the same economic restrictions as Area A and B, as well as an estimate of the portion of Israeli GDP in East Jerusalem and in settlements in the West Bank.
“The benefits accruing to the occupying power from settlements in occupied Area C and East Jerusalem are the flip side of the cost to the Palestinian people,” the report said.
It found Area C contributes $41 billion to the Israeli economy — cash which, if the Oslo Accords were followed, would belong to the Palestinians.
The report comes as a crucial UN vote approaches on a resolution to call on the International Court of Justice to issue its opinion on the legal consequences of denying the Palestinian people the right to self-determination as a result of Israel’s actions since the 1967 war.
The resolution will go to the 193-member assembly for a final vote before the end of the year, when it is virtually certain to be approved.
The draft cites Israel’s breach of Palestinian rights to self-determination “from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures”.
It would ask the court for an opinion on how these Israeli policies and practices “affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all states and the United Nations from this status”.