Which state in the world has the funny geographical shape? If I were to answer, it would be the state of Palestine or the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and looking at the map below, it is obvious why. Here is a breakdown of the West bank map as designed in the Oslo II Accord:
Area A: Fully controlled and governed by the Palestinian state with no Israeli control or influence (18% of West Bank)
Area B: Palestinian civil control and joint Palestinian-Israeli military control (21% of West Bank)
Rest of the map (White Area): Fully under Israeli civil and military control (61% of West Bank)
The Palestinian state is comprised of the map above and the Gaza strip (not shown in the map). It might make sense now why Palestine would be my answer to the question but underlying such response lies a reality that is far from humorous. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is well known to the world, but most discussions recently have inclined towards understanding Jerusalem as the capital of either countries. Far less spotlight is shown on the livelihoods of Palestinians and the varied narratives that the civilians of Israel and Palestine have on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and their widespread settlements there. To understand how this region became one of the most conflicted and controversial lands, the history of Israel and Palestine would have to be understood.
It is only in 1948 that the state of Israel was established, also the year that “officially” marks the beginning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So how did that happen and what was the Palestinian-Israeli region like before?
Before the twentieth century, the eastern Mediterranean region had been under the Ottoman rule for centuries. In it, lived mostly Muslims, Christians and a minority of Jews. However, with the influence of Zionism, the demographics of the region started changing in the early twentieth century. The rise of Jewish national identity coupled with the existence of intensifying anti-Semitism around Europe led to a large number of Jews to join the nationalist movement of Zionism-the movement that supports the re-establishment of Jewish historic homeland in the Middle East (Land of Israel). Soon enough, Palestine saw a huge influx of Jewish population.
After the World War I in 1918, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Palestinian region was controlled by the British. For many Palestinians, the influx of Jewish population into their region was the result of British promises for a Jewish homeland-which were made without the consent of the civilians living on that land. As Zionism grew stronger, fears of Zionist attacks proliferated and around 750,000 Palestinians living in the region- which is now established as Israel- had to flee and became displaced during the year 1947. As tensions and violence between the Jews and Arabs grew, the United Nations drafted and approved the plan to divide British Palestine into two states-Israel (for the Jews) and Palestine (for the Arabs). Intended for peace, the plan became the reason behind the numerous wars fought between the Arabs and the Jews in the coming decades.
Fast forward to 1960s, Israel had won and controlled the entire British Palestinian region (the official land of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank). At the same time, however, The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed with an aim to achieve an independent Palestinian state. Fighting between the PLO and Israel, including through acts of violence and terrorism, continued for decades. Then in 1980s, the first intifada (Arabic word for uprising) happened as a result of the growing frustration among Palestinians towards their oppression resulting in thousands of deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians. Eventually, in the early 1990s, leaders of both sides decided to sign the Oslo Accord (which resulted in the map above) to achieve peace and stability in the region.
After more than two decades since the Oslo Accords, the economic situation of Palestine faces several impediments. As of 2017, the unemployment rate within the Palestinian region is one of the highest in the world (at 26.7%). Low GDP growth rate and deteriorating living conditions of the Palestinians in the past two years have led organizations like the World Bank to call out Israeli authorities to ease trade and import restrictions within Palestine. A report by the World Bank in 2013 noted that Israeli restrictions in the West Bank alone costs the Palestine 35% of its GDP.
Closure Policy and Limitations on Movement
One of the major impediments to the economic development of Palestine is the Israeli occupation in the West Bank region. Under the Israeli closure policy, barriers are put along and within the West Bank and road, sea and air blockades are prevalent. For the Israeli authorities, these blockades and checkpoints are necessary for the safety of their citizens by preventing terror attacks. But for the thousands of Palestinians, these blockades harm the mobility of their goods and services and also restricts their own movement. Moreover, as the construction of the wall/fence along the West Bank region goes well into the Palestinian land, movement of the civilians is further restricted and tens of thousands of Palestinians are cut off from their farm lands and irrigation water.
Dual- Use Goods System Restriction
Dual-use goods are goods, chemicals and technology that could be used for both civilian and military applications. Under the dual use goods restriction, the Israeli government has banned the transfer of at least 56 items in both the West bank and Gaza, going well above the number of items restricted in most international practices. The most important sector being affected by this restriction is the agriculture on which the food security of the Palestinians depends. Due to decreased supply of active chemicals that make fertilizers more effective, the land productivity is adversely affected. Other sectors like the Information ICT and manufacturing are also affected. According to the World Bank, the dual use goods being restricted into the Palestinian regions are decided indiscriminately and have too broad a definition. For example, as the Israeli authorities restrict the transfer of ‘communications equipment, communications supporting equipment, equipment containing communication functions’, several basic goods like manufacturing production lines, spare parts and medical equipment become difficult to access-resulting in the slow development of the ICT sector within Palestine.
What Could be Done?
Although the restrictions imposed by the Israelis within the Palestinian region are with the purpose of safeguarding Israelis, numerous studies have shown that these policies are only ineffective and majorly work to repress and contain the Palestinians. For the economic development of Palestine, it is vital for the Israeli government to ease their overblown and disproportionate control. Not only are these restrictions disproportionate, they are unjust as well. Looking at the plight and despondent situation of the Palestinians, perhaps governments and organizations around the world can call out and put more pressure on Israel let regular Palestinians live with the autonomy and freedom that they deserve.