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World Bank: Israeli restrictions undercutting Palestinian state

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli restrictions are hampering Palestinian economic growth and threatening the viability of Palestinian statehood, according to the World Bank committee that deals with the Palestinian areas.

The report, released Sept. 16 by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee ahead of its Sept. 21 meeting, says growth in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is projected at 8 percent.

"Some of the increase in economic activity can be attributed to improved investor confidence and the partial easing of restrictions by the Government of Israel (GoI)," the report said. "The main driver of growth, however, remains external financial assistance."

It said obstacles to growth are  "manifold and myriad, as many important GoI restrictions remain in place."

Among those cited in the report are "access to the majority of the territory’s land and water"; the isolation of eastern Jerusalem from other Palestinian areas; "The ability of investors to enter into Israel and the West Bank is unpredictable," an apparent reference to the difficulties of entrance for ethnic Arabs, including those with citizenship in Western countries; "Many raw materials critical to the productive sectors are classified by the GoI as ‘dual-use’ (civilian and military) and their import entails the navigation of complex procedures, generating delays and significantly increasing costs."

Many of Israel’s restrictions have to do with security, although in some cases, resources are diverted to settlements.

"Unless action is taken in the near future to address the remaining obstacles to private sector development and sustainable growth, the PA will remain donor dependent and its institutions, no matter how robust, will not be able to underpin a viable state," the report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has made the easing of such restrictions a centerpiece of its efforts to advance the peace process. Israeli officials say that more are in the offing as newly revived direct talks with the Palestinian Authority proceed.

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