A new report by the World Bank examines the obstacle to Palestinian economic development posed by the lack of access by Palestinians to Area C in the West Bank.
The 1995 Oslo II Accord, intended to be an interim agreement on the way to full Palestinian autonomy and statehood, divided the West Bank into three sections: Area A, under Palestinian Authority control, Area B, under joint Israeli-P.A. control, and Area C, under Israeli control.
“More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians,” the Bank stated in a press release. “The first comprehensive study of the potential impact of this ‘withheld land,’ released by the World Bank today, sets the currents loss to the Palestinian economy at about US$3.4 billion.”
Area C constitutes 61 percent of the West Bank and is the only contiguous land connecting 227 smaller separate and heavily residential areas. The 1993 Oslo Peace Accords stipulated that Area C be gradually transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by 1998. This transfer has never taken place. [...]
Freeing economic activity in Area C would have a particularly high impact on the development of businesses in agriculture and Dead Sea minerals exploitation, stone mining and quarrying, construction, tourism, and telecommunications. Other sectors would be able to benefit from improvements in the quality and cost of infrastructure and increased demand for goods and services.
These findings concur with those of Center for American Progress analysts on a trip to the West Bank in March. “Restrictions resulting from the continued occupation of the West Bank, including control of 60 percent of the West Bank classified as ‘Area C’ under the Oslo II Accords,” our trip report stated, “hamper economic growth, the efforts to build Palestinian Authority institutions, and basic urban-planning efforts by the Palestinians.”
A June 2013 report on Israeli policy in Area C by Israeli human rights group B’tselem notes that the Oslo II division of the West Bank was intended to be temporary, and therefore “was not designed to address the needs of long-term demographic growth… The land reserves that surround the built-up sections of West Bank towns and villages are often designated as Area C, and Israel does not allow construction or development on these reserves. Israel thereby stifles many Area A and B communities, denying them the opportunity to develop.”
In May, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a $4 billion investment plan to spur economic growth in the West Bank. The plan is one of several components of Secretary Kerry’s effort to create an environment conducive to Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which commenced in July.