Report: Palestinians lose billions to Israeli bans
JERICHO, West Bank (AP) - The Palestinians could expand their struggling economy by a third and slash their budget deficit in half if Israel allowed them to use 61 percent of West Bank territory that is now largely off-limits, the World Bank said on Tuesday.
The bank and donor countries supporting the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Israel to open up the restricted territory, known as Area C. But the report released on Tuesday marked the first detailed attempt to quantify Palestinian losses.
"Access to Area C will not cure all Palestinian economic problems but the alternative is bleak," the report said. "Without the ability to conduct purposeful economic activity in Area C, the economic space of the West Bank will remain crowded and stunted, inhabited by people whose daily interactions with the state of Israel are characterized by inconvenience, expense and frustration."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said most of the issues raised by the World Bank are to be settled in ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Developing the Palestinian economy is in Israel's strategic interest, but political realities have to be taken into account, he said.