Sunday, January 31, 2010

[ePalestine] The Inevitable Bi-national Regime - By Meron Benvenisti (A MUST READ)

Jews for Justice for Palestinians

The Inevitable Bi-national Regime

By Meron Benvenisti

January 2010 

The article below, an extract from a longer book, was published today in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz. It did not appear in the English edition but has been translated by  Profs Zalman Amit and Daphna Levitt and circualted by email. 


It is no longer arguable; the question is not if a binational entity be established but rather what kind of entity will it be. The historical process that began in the aftermath of the 1967 War brought about the gradual abrogation of the partition option, if it ever existed.  Hence, bi- nationalism is not a political or ideological program so much as a de facto reality masquerading as a temporary state of affairs. It is a description of the current condition, not a prescription


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Friday, January 29, 2010

[ePalestine] '[Israeli] State siphoned off Palestinian workers' insurance money'

Jerusalem Post

January 29, 110 Friday

'[Israeli] State siphoned off Palestinian workers' insurance money'


Report: For over 20 years, Israel withheld over NIS 1b. from laborers for national insurance.

The government of Israel has siphoned over a billion shekels in money taken from Palestinian laborers for national insurance between 1970-1994, a report released on Wednesday states. 

According to the report, compiled by the workers’ rights organization Kav LaOved, between the years 1970-1994 over NIS 1 billion was withheld from Palestinian workers’ salaries in order to pay their national insurance, but in practice, the report states, the money was instead funneled to the Finance Ministry and used to pay National Labor Union fees, even while the workers were not given membership in the union. 

Kav LaOved said that during those years, Palestinian workers would receive an invoice with their paycheck that detailed a sum withdrawn for national insurance. According to the report’s findings, only 7.63 percent of the withheld funds went to pay for the workers’ insurance, with the remainder being funneled to the Finance Ministry. 

In the report, entitled “State Robbery,” Kav LaOved cites a letter received in 1993 from the Finance Ministry saying that the money withheld went to pay the civilian authorities in the West Bank in order to fund infrastructure programs. 

Hannah Zohar, the author of the report and director of Kav LaOved, said she presumes that the infrastructure programs in question had to do with the construction of settlements. 

The Finance Ministry has denied the allegations. 

The report describes the 1991 legal case in which the Flower Growers Union petitioned the High Court demanding the return of funds that were not used for the national insurance payments as intended. The court ruled in their favor and forced the government to return approximately NIS 4.7 million to employers and their workers. 

Zohar told the Post on Thursday that the court case should have set a legal precedent leading to the return of all the money siphoned away from national insurance payments, but instead has been largely forgotten. 

The Finance Ministry issued a statement Thursday denying the allegations, adding that the report is based on “confusion over the different roles carried out by separate branches of the government.” 

The Histadrut labor federation called the report “full of lies” and “baseless” and accused Kav LaOved of coming to their conclusions before conducting their research, with the findings having “no connection to reality.” 

The Government Payments Branch did not respond to the report.


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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

[ePalestine] FP: Time for George Mitchell to resign (By Stephen M. Walt) - A MUST READ


Time for George Mitchell to resign

Posted By Stephen M. Walt Friday, January 22, 2010

If Mideast special envoy George Mitchell wants to end his career with his reputation intact, it is time for him to resign. He had a distinguished tenure in the U.S. Senate -- including a stint as majority leader -- and his post-Senate career has been equally accomplished. He was an effective mediator of the conflict in Northern Ireland, helped shepherd the Disney Corporation through a turbulent period, and led an effective investigation of the steroids scandal afflicting major league baseball. Nobody can expect to be universally admired in the United States, but Mitchell may have come as close as any politician in recent memory.

Why should Mitchell step down now? Because he is wasting his time. The administration's early commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian peace was either a naïve bit of bravado or a cynical charade, and if Mitchell continues to pile up frequent-flyer miles in a fruitless effort, he will be remembered as one of a long series of U.S. "mediators" who ended up complicit in Israel's self-destructive land grab on the West Bank. Mitchell will turn 77 in August, he has already undergone treatment for prostate cancer, and he's gotten exactly nowhere (or worse) since his mission began. However noble the goal of Israeli-Palestinian peace might be, surely he's got better things to do.

In an interview earlier this week with Time's Joe Klein, President Obama acknowledged that his early commitment to achieving "two states for two peoples" had failed. In his words, "this is as intractable a problem as you get ... Both sides-the Israelis and the Palestinians-have found that the political environments, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that" (my emphasis).

This admission raises an obvious question: who was responsible for this gross miscalculation? It's not as if the dysfunctional condition of Israeli and Palestinian internal politics was a dark mystery when Obama took office, or when Netanyahu formed the most hard-line government in Israeli history. Which advisors told Obama and Mitchell to proceed as they did, raising expectations sky-high in the Cairo speech, publicly insisting on a settlement freeze, and then engaging in a humiliating retreat? Did they ever ask themselves what they would do if Netanyahu dug in his heels, as anyone with a triple-digit IQ should have expected? And if Obama now realizes how badly they screwed up, why do the people who recommended this approach still have their jobs?

As for Mitchell himself, he should resign because it should be clear to him that he was hired under false pretenses. He undoubtedly believed Obama when the president said he was genuinely committed to achieving Israel-Palestinian peace in his first term. Obama probably promised to back him up, and his actions up to the Cairo speech made it look like he meant it. But his performance ever since has exposed him as another U.S. president who is unwilling to do what everyone knows it will take to achieve a just peace. Mitchell has been reduced to the same hapless role that Condoleezza Rice played in the latter stages of the Bush administration -- engaged in endless "talks" and inconclusive haggling over trivialities- and he ought to be furious at having been hung out to dry in this fashion.

The point is not that Obama's initial peace effort in the Middle East has failed; the real lesson is that he didn't really try. The objective was admirably clear from the start -- "two states for two peoples" -- what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through. And notwithstanding the various difficulties on the Palestinian side, the main obstacle has been the Netanyahu government's all-too obvious rejection of anything that might look like a viable Palestinian state, combined with its relentless effort to gobble up more land. Unless the U.S. president is willing and able to push Israel as hard as it is pushing the Palestinians (and probably harder), peace will simply not happen. Pressure on Israel is also the best way to defang Hamas, because genuine progress towards a Palestinian state in the one thing that could strengthen Abbas and other Palestinian moderates and force Hamas to move beyond its talk about a long-term hudna (truce) and accept the idea of permanent peace.

It's not as if Obama and Co. don't realize that this is important. National Security Advisor James Jones has made it clear that he sees the Israel-Palestinian issue as absolutely central; it's not our only problem in the Middle East, but it tends to affect most of the others and resolving it would be an enormous boon. And there's every sign that the president is aware of the need to do more than just talk.

Yet U.S. diplomacy in this area remains all talk and no action. When a great power identifies a key interest and is strongly committed to achieving it, it uses all the tools at its disposal to try to bring that outcome about. Needless to say, the use of U.S. leverage has been conspicuously absent over the past year, which means that Mitchell has been operating with both hands tied firmly behind his back. Thus far, the only instrument of influence that Obama has used has been presidential rhetoric, and even that weapon has been used rather sparingly.

And please don't blame this on Congress. Yes, Congress will pander to the lobby, oppose a tougher U.S. stance, and continue to supply Israel with generous economic and military handouts, but a determined president still has many ways of bringing pressure to bear on recalcitrant clients. The problem is that Obama refused to use any of them.

When Netanyahu dug in his heels and refused a complete settlement freeze -- itself a rather innocuous demand if Israel preferred peace to land -- did Obama describe the settlements as "illegal" and contrary to international law? Of course not. Did he fire a warning shot by instructing the Department of Justice to crack down on tax-deductible contributions to settler organizations? Nope. Did he tell Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to signal his irritation by curtailing U.S. purchases of Israeli arms, downgrading various forms of "strategic cooperation," or canceling a military exchange or two? Not a chance. When Israel continued to evict Palestinians from their homes and announced new settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in August, did Obama remind Netanyahu of his dependence on U.S. support by telling U.S. officials to say a few positive things about the Goldstone Report and to use its release as an opportunity to underscore the need for a genuine peace? Hardly; instead, the administration rewarded Netanyau's intransigence by condemning Goldstone and praising Netanyahu for "unprecedented" concessions. (The "concessions," by the way, was an announcement that Israel would freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank "temporarily" while continuing it in East Jerusalem. In other words, they'll just take the land a bit more slowly).

Like the Clinton and Bush administrations, in short, the idea that the United States ought to use its leverage and exert genuine pressure on Israel remains anathema to Obama, to Mitchell and his advisors, and to all those pundits who are trapped in the Washington consensus on this issue. The main organizations in the Israel lobby are of course dead-set against it -- and that goes for J Street as well -- even though there is no reason to expect Israel to change course in the absence of countervailing pressure.

Obama blinked -- leaving Mitchell with nothing to do-because he needed to keep sixty senators on board with his health care initiative (that worked out well, didn't it?), because he didn't want to jeopardize the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party, and because he knew he'd be excoriated by Israel's false friends in the U.S. media if he did the right thing. I suppose I ought to be grateful to have my thesis vindicated in such striking fashion, but there's too much human misery involved on both sides to take any consolation in that.

So what will happen now? Israel has made it clear that it is going to keep building settlements -- including the large blocs (like Ma'ale Adumim) that were consciously designed to carve up the West Bank and make creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and other moderate forces will be increasingly discredited as collaborators or dupes. As Israel increasingly becomes an apartheid state, its international legitimacy will face a growing challenge. Iran's ability to exploit the Palestinian cause will be strengthened, and pro-American regimes in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere will be further weakened by their impotence and by their intimate association with the United States. It might even help give al Qaeda a new lease on life, at least in some places. Jews in other countries will continue to distance themselves from an Israel that they see as a poor embodiment of their own values, and one that can no longer portray itself convincingly as "a light unto the nations." And the real tragedy is that all this might have been avoided, had the leaders of the world's most powerful country been willing to use their influence on both sides more directly.

Looking ahead, one can see two radically different possibilities. The first option is that Israel retains control of the West Bank and Gaza and continues to deny the Palestinians full political rights or economic opportunities. (Netanyahu likes to talk about a long-term "economic peace," but his vision of Palestinian bantustans under complete Israeli control is both a denial of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations and a severe obstacle to their ability to fully develop their own society. Over time, there may be another intifada, which the IDF will crush as ruthlessly as it did the last one. Perhaps the millions of remaining Palestinians will gradually leave -- as hardline Israelis hope and as former House speaker Dick Armey once proposed. If so, then a country founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust -- one of history's greatest crimes-will have completed a dispossession begun in 1948 -- a great crime of its own.

Alternatively, the Palestinians may remain where they are, and begin to demand equal rights in the state under whose authority they have been forced to dwell. If Israel denies them these rights, its claim to being the "only democracy in the Middle East" will be exposed as hollow. If it grants them, it will eventually cease to be a Jewish-majority state (though its culture would undoubtedly retain a heavily Jewish/Israeli character). As a long-time supporter of Israel's existence, I would take no joy in that outcome. Moreover, transforming Israel into a post- Zionist and multinational society would be a wrenching and quite possibly violent experience for all concerned. For both reasons, I've continued to favor "two states for two peoples" instead.

But with the two-state solution looking less and less likely, these other possibilities begin to loom large. Through fear and fecklessness, the United States has been an active enabler of an emerging tragedy. Israelis have no one to blame but themselves for the occupation, but Americans -- who like to think of themselves as a country whose foreign policy reflects deep moral commitments-will be judged harshly for our own role in this endeavor.

The United States will suffer certain consequences as a result-decreased international influence, a somewhat greater risk of anti-American terrorism, tarnished moral reputation, etc.-but it will survive. But Israel may be in the process of drafting its own suicide pact, and its false friends here in the United States have been supplying the paper and ink. By offering his resignation-and insisting that Obama accept it-George Mitchell can escape the onus of complicity in this latest sad chapter of an all-too-familiar story. Small comfort, perhaps, but better than nothing.

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[ePalestine] Amira Hass / Israel blocking NGO efforts with tourist visas

Last update - 04:39 20/01/2010                          

Israel blocking NGO efforts with tourist visas 

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent 

The Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned. 

In an apparent overhaul of regulations that have been in place since 1967, the ministry is now granting the NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working. 

Organizations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker organization). 

Until recently, the workers would register with the international relations department at the Social Affairs Ministry, which would recommend the Interior Ministry to issue them B1 work permits. Although the foreign nationals are still required to approach the Social Affairs Ministry to receive recommendations to obtain a tourist visa, the Interior Ministry is aiming to make the Ministry of Defense responsible for those international NGOs and also requiring them to register with the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. 

Foreign nationals working for NGOs had understood they would receive a stamp or handwritten note alongside their tourist visa, permitting them to work "in the Palestinian Authority." Israel is refusing work visas to most foreign nationals who state that they wish to work within the Palestinian territories, such as foreign lecturers for Palestinian universities and businessmen. 

Israel does not recognize Palestinian Authority rule in East Jerusalem or in Area C, which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank. The NGO workers say they've come to believe that the new policy is intended to force them to close their Jerusalem offices and relocate to West Bank cities. This move would prevent them from working among the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, defined by the international community as occupied territory. 

The organizations fear the new policy will impede their ability to work in Area C, whether because Israel doesn't see it as part of the Palestinian Authority or because they will eventually be subjected to the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians. Such restrictions include the prohibition to enter East Jerusalem and Gaza via Israel, except with specific and rarely obtained permits; and prohibition to enter areas west of the separation fence, except for village residents who hold special residency permits and Israeli citizens. 

One NGO worker told Haaretz that the policy was reminiscent of the travel constraints imposed by Burmese authorities on humanitarian organizations, albeit presented in a subtler manner. 

NGO workers told Haaretz that they had been informed by the COGAT official that a policy change was forthcoming, as early as July 2009. When a number of them approached the Interior Ministry in August to renew their visas, they found that their applications had been submitted to a "special committee." They were not told who constituted this committee, and had to make do with a "receipt" confirming that they had submitted the request. The workers said the tourist visas they received differed from each other in duration and travel limitations, and surmised from this that the policy has not been entirely fleshed out. 

Latest in a series of steps 

A number of NGO workers who spoke with Haaretz voiced deep apprehensions about having to submit to the authority of the Defense Ministry. The groups are committed to the Red Cross code of ethics, and therefore see being subjugated to the ministry directly in charge of the occupation as problematic and contradictory to the very essence of their work. 

Between 140 and 150 NGOs operate among the Palestinian population. Haaretz could not obtain the exact number of foreign nationals they employ. 

The new limitations do not apply to the 12 organizations that have been active in the West Bank prior to 1967. Those groups, which include the Red Cross and several Christian organizations, were registered with the Jordanian authorities. 

The new move by the Interior Ministry is the latest in a series of steps taken in the last few years to constrain the movement of foreign nationals in the West Bank and Gaza, including Palestinians with family and property in the occupied territories. Most of those who have been effected are nationals of countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, especially Western states. Israel does not apply any similar constraints on citizens of the same countries traveling within Israel and West Bank settlements. 

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the only relevant authority empowered to approve the stay of foreign citizens in the Palestinian Authority is the coordinator of government activities in the territories. "The Interior Ministry is entrusted with granting visas and work permits within the State of Israel. Those staying within both the boundaries of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are required to secure their permits accordingly," the ministry said. 

"Recently, a question was raised on the issue of visas granted to those staying in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel, as it transpired that they spend most of their time in the PA despite having been provided with Israeli work permits," the statement continued. "The matter is under intense discussions, with the active participation of the relevant military authorities, with a view to finding the right and appropriate solution as soon as possible." 


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

[ePalestine] Diskin to Abbas: Defer UN vote on Goldstone or face 'second Gaza'


Last update - 03:57 17/01/2010                          

Diskin to Abbas: Defer UN vote on Goldstone or face 'second Gaza'

By Akiva Eldar 

The request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations Human Rights Council last year to postpone the vote on the Goldstone report followed a particularly tense meeting with the head of the Shin Bet security service, Haaretz has learned. At the October meeting in Ramallah, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told Abbas that if he did not ask for a deferral of the vote on the critical report on last year's military operation, Israel would turn the West Bank into a "second Gaza." 

Diskin, who reports directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened to revoke the easing of restrictions on movement within the West Bank that had been implemented earlier last year. He also said Israel would withdraw permission for mobile phone company Wataniya to operate in the Palestinian Authority. That would have cost the PA tens of millions of dollars in compensation payments to the company. 

A PA official close to Abbas told Haaretz that Diskin came to the Muqata compound in Ramallah in October with a foreign diplomatic delegation, and that a senior Israel Defense Forces officer made similar threats to other PA leaders at around the same time. The Shin Bet said in response that it does not comment on Diskin's schedule or meetings. 

Abbas told a Palestinian commission of inquiry investigating the vote's deferral that he accepted responsibility for the decision, and denied that his choice was a result of outside pressure. 

Commission chairman and PA legislator Azmi Shuaibi told Al-Watan TV at the time that in a three-hour session Abbas admitted to the panel that he had made a mistake in asking the UN body to defer the vote and said he was sorry that the affair had been exploited for political ends. 

Thirty-three of the UN council's 47 members supported the PA's initial endorsement of the Goldstone report. The matter was slated to be transferred from the UN General Assembly to the Security Council, when to the surprise of diplomats on all sides the PA delegation agreed at the last moment to defer the vote until March 2010. 

The Goldstone commission recommended that Israel be given until March to complete an independent inquiry into its conduct during the offensive and to try any figures suspected of war crimes. Failure by either Israel or Hamas to conduct an open inquiry into their conduct would result in the case being referred to the International Criminal Court. 

The United States is now seeking to persuade Israel to conduct such an investigation, and to release its findings on a number of incidents in which civilians were killed during the fighting. 


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[ePalestine] Real per capita income of Palestine plunges

Emirates Business 24/7 

Real per capita income of Palestine plunges 

By Nadim Kawach  on Sunday, January 17, 2010 

Armed with growing global financial aid, the Palestinians in the occupied territories struggled to alleviate years of poverty, unemployment and other economic woes but their efforts have been ruined by Israel's hostility. In such conditions, the aid was only helpful in preventing a human disaster in 2008. 

While their economy recorded modest growth rates in 2008, the per capita income has steadily eroded over the past decade, investment has dived, unemployment deteriorated and the farming sector continued to shrink. Several years of concerted peace moves and international promises of a better life for the Palestinians have failed to produce any results, with their economic problems only getting worse and hopes for a recovery continuing to fade away. 

Persistent blockades, destruction of trees, closure of factories and other repressive and punitive measures by Israel in the occupied territories have massacred the Palestinian economy, widened unemployment and poverty, and killed hopes of the young generation of any recovery under Israel. 

Economic indicators 

"The suffering of the Palestinian people and economy continued in 2008 mainly because of the Israeli policies and practices. Development in the West Bank suffered from continued Israeli settlements and destruction of its geographic and economic scene. In Gaza, which contributes around 44 per cent of the Palestinian GDP, all economic indicators recorded a sharp decline because of the sustained Israeli siege," the Arab League said in its 2009 economic report. 

"Towards the end of 2008, tragedy struck Gaza when Israel launched its aggression against the Palestinians, killing and wounding 6,815 people, including 415 children and 110 women. This led to a serious deterioration in the economy and destroyed all efforts to achieve any quick recovery," the report added. 

"Through 2008, Palestinian economic indicators showed further deterioration. The GDP was no longer able to cover domestic demand and the public revenues [excluding foreign aid] could not cover budgetary spending… inflation rates soared and the economy became more fragile. But the intensifying flow of aid from Arabs and other countries largely contributed to preventing a human and economic catastrophe in the occupied territories." 

The report showed since 1999, the Palestinian gross domestic product has steadily eroded. Against the backdrop of a rapid population growth, worsening poverty and unemployment, the per capita income shrank and key sectors deteriorated, mainly farming, the backbone of the Palestinian economy. 

Weak dollar 

"What complicated the situation is the split within the Palestinian government, the weakening in the US dollar and the sub-prime crisis given the strong link between the Israeli and US economies. As a result, the real value of global aid to the Palestinians receded since it consists mostly of US dollar, which has declined against the Israeli currency. All these developments have inflicted massive losses on the Palestinian economy over the past years and severely hit the Palestinian private sector, the main driver of growth and employment." 

While the GDP in the West Bank and Gaza Strip recorded a growth of around 2.3 per cent in 2008, the real per capita income declined because of high growth in the population and contraction in key productive sectors, the report said. 

Real per capita income plunged from about $1,621 in 1999 to nearly $1,284 in 2008 while the per capita of the gross national product dived from nearly $1,959 to about $1,690. Real GNP per capita dipped from $1,707 to $1,108. "Sector-wise, the agricultural sector which is a key component of the Palestinian economy and a major job provider has been severely hit because of the Israeli measures. In nominal terms, it recorded modest growth but real growth was negative mainly because of a sharp decline in olive production. Its contribution to the GDP shrank from about $294.5 in 2007 to $235 in 2008, depressing it share from 6.3 to 4.6 per cent," the report said. 

"From 160,000 tonnes in 2007, olive output in the territories dived to only 34,000 tonnes in 2008 as Israel pushed ahead with its policy of land confiscation, uprooting of trees, devastation of farmlands, and closure of export outlets." 

The report said closure of factories and workshops within Israel's collective punitive measures also wrecked the Palestinian industrial sector 

Although it grew in current prices in 2008, this sector's contribution to the GDP retreated to about 13.6 per cent from nearly 14.8 per cent in 1999. 

"Israel has also confiscated factory equipment and spare parts and this has further aggravated the problem in the industrial sector." 

The report showed while the construction sector edged up by about 2.2 per cent in 2008 compared with 2007, it was down by nearly 18.4 per cent from 1999. It said the decline was a result of growing investment risks in this sector because of direct Israeli attacks on buildings and other facilities. 

Productive sectors 

As for services, it grew by around 2.8 per cent in 2008 to hit a record 76.8 per cent of the GDP compared with around 61 per cent in 1999. 

"This increase was at the expense of productive sectors in the Palestinian areas. It has been a general trend since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967. While the growth reflects the steadfastness of the Palestinian services sector against Israeli policies, it also illustrates the difficulties faced by the Palestinian productive sectors because of Israel," the report said. 

"As a result of the Israeli recent escalation against the Palestinians, mainly in Gaza Strip, international aid gained momentum and this has only prevented a human catastrophe. But the general economic and social situation has remained tragic and there are no hopes for an early recovery thanks to the continuous Israeli repressive and hostile policies, which have aggravated poverty and unemployment problems in the Palestinian areas." 

From 11.8 per cent in 1999, the Palestinian unemployment rate surged to 23.8 per cent in 2001 and hit a record high of 31.3 per cent in 2002. It slipped to 25.6 per cent in 2003 and mildly fluctuated to reach 28.5 per cent in 2008. 

The report showed Israel's decision to deprive thousands of Palestinians from their jobs in its areas was the main contributor to the worsening unemployment problem. From 117,000 in 1999, the number of Palestinian workers in Israel recorded a sharp fall in the following years to reach one of its lowest levels of around 67,000 at the end of 2008. 

"Jobless Palestinians in the occupied territories rose to one of its highest levels of about 249,000. This constitutes the main cause for the poverty problem in Palestine and it illustrates the inability of the Palestinian economy from absorbing its own manpower." 

Unemployment high 

The report showed the unemployment problem was more underscored in Gaza, which has remained under tight Israeli siege for many years. "Unemployment stood at 16 per cent in the West Bank but as high as 49 per cent in Gaza at the end of 2008. The more serious phenomenon is that unemployment is as high as 62 per cent among the youth in Gaza and 27 per cent in the West Bank." 

According to the report, the Palestinian nominal GDP steadily shrank between 2000 and 2003 before it started to climb slowly in the following years to reach $5,099 in 2008 compared to nearly $4,178 in 1999. The report showed persistent tensions and Israel's repressive policies have also hurt investments, which plunged from about $1,806 million in 1999 to $1,497 in 2008. Private investment was the main victim as it tumbled from nearly $1,143m to about $809 in the same period. 

The decline depressed the share of total investments from 43.2 per cent to 29.4 per cent of the GDP, according to the report. 

Turning to trade, the report said the erosion in the farming and industrial sectors pushed down Palestine's exports from $683m in 1999 to about $500m in 2007. Although they recovered to about $737 in 2008, Palestine's trade deficit largely widened from around $2.66bn in 1999 to $3.032bn in 2008 as a result of sharp increase in imports. 

Global aid 

The report showed while there was a sharp rise in revenue due to the surge in global aid, spending also recorded a large increase because of government commitments to civil servants, compensations and reconstruction of facilities damaged by Israel attacks and punitive measures. 

From about $1.36bn in 1999, public revenue soared to $3.52bn in 2008 while expenditure also leaped from about $1.19bn to nearly $3.13bn in the same period. The bulk of the revenue increase came from international aid, which swelled from $235m to about $1.76bn in 2008. As a result, the budget deficit turned into a surplus of about $393m in 2008 after years of painful deficits. But the Palestinian public debt continued to grow during that period because of previous shortfalls to reach a record $1.439bn at the end of 2008 compared with $391.5bn at the end of 1999. 

As for global financial aid, the report showed it exceeded $2bn in 2008, including about $526m from Arab countries, $651m from the European Union, $300m from the US, about $283m from the World Bank and the rest from other sources. 


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Friday, January 08, 2010

[ePalestine] The Nation: Imposing Middle East Peace (By Henry Siegman)

The Nation 

Imposing Middle East Peace 

By Henry Siegman 
This article appeared in the January 25, 2010 edition of The Nation.
January 7, 2010 


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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

[ePalestine] BRIAN ENO: An Experiment in Provocation


January 2 - 4, 2009 
An Experiment in Provocation 
Stealing Gaza 


It's a tragedy that the Israelis - a people who must understand better than almost anybody the horrors of oppression - are now acting as oppressors. As the great Jewish writer Primo Levi once remarked "Everybody has their Jews, and for the Israelis it's the Palestinians". By creating a middle Eastern version of the Warsaw ghetto they are recapitulating their own history as though they've forgotten it. And by trying to paint an equivalence between the Palestinians - with their homemade rockets and stone-throwing teenagers - and themselves - with one of the most sophisticated military machines in the world - they sacrifice all credibility. 

The Israelis are a gifted and resourceful people who fully deserve the right to live in peace, but who seem intent on squandering every chance to allow that to happen. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that this conflict serves the political and economic purposes of Israel so well that they have every interest in maintaining it. While there is fighting they can continue to build illegal settlements. While there is fighting they continue to receive huge quantities of military aid from the United States. And while there is fighting they can avoid looking candidly at themselves and the ruthlessness into which they are descending. 

Gaza is now an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment? 

Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now 'under attack' you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn't possibly reach an accommodation. 

And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland. 

Brian Eno is a musician and music producer. 


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