Gaza’s Hope

Tonight, Monday the 19th of November, here in London, there is hope that the huge loss of life in Gaza — infants, children, women, fathers, uncles, cousins, the elderly — may, for once, result in some permanent, concrete changes for all.

A New Dawn? Gaza’s fishermen may, at last, get full rights to their fishing grounds in the Mediterranean. And the border crossings to the Sinai…and Israel…might be opened, thanks to Hamas’ new prowess on the international diplomatic scene, as well as, with its rockets, in the air. But many people in Gaza are hoping, simply, that the Israeli bombardment will stop. Photo: Mahmoud Hams, AFP/Getty Images, January, 2012.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has, according to the most authoritative sources, had to step back from a full-scale invasion, not least because the casualties involved for the Israeli army would have tested his credibility among an Israeli public preparing to go to the polls in January.

We shall see.

While President Obama in the US and European Foreign Ministers continue to dither amidst the escalating bloodshed, Arab ministers, ambassadors and dignitaries are taking the risk of visiting beseiged Gaza tomorrow …

…Not to mention the risks taken by their hosts, on the ground.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that by next year, at least, some of Hamas’demands will have been met.

If so, the future of Gaza’s economy, and of its people, will be brighter than it has been for many years.

We’ll keep you posted.



Palestine’s Agriculture and Agro-Industries: The Basis for a Resurgent Economy?

A series of recent studies from the UN, the World Bank, the UK, France and the European Union, as well as other international organisations, has highlighted the huge potential of agriculture and fishing in the West Bank and Gaza and the extremely important contribution a revived sector could provide to both Palestine’s GDP and the urgent need to create new jobs, especially for the young and in the rural areas.

Palestine’s Jordan Valley is one of the world’s richest, and most diverse, agricultural areas. Picture: JICA

At present, all the reports emphasize that the escalation of Israeli settlements, particularly in the fertile Jordan Valley; Israeli military control of ‘Area C;’ and the rapidly dwindling amount of water available to Palestinian farmers has led to a sharp decline in both cultivation and output. Fishing and fish processing in Gaza is also stagnating, they add, due to the harsh Israeli restrictions, both onshore and offshore. Continue reading

PalTrade Launches Drive to Diversify Trade & Exports

The Palestine Trade Center (PalTrade), together with the Ministry of Economy in Ramallah, has announced a series of measures to promote Palestinian exports to the Arab countries, Europe and other international markets, including special programmes aimed at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Bank and Gaza. They are being launched as more and more countries, following the lead of the UK, the European Union and South Africa, are refusing to accept imports labelled ‘Made in Israel,’ which, in fact, come from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories rather than from Israel itself.

The measures announced by PalTrade — a national, non-profit organisation based in Al Bireh in the West Bank — include a new trade diversification programme funded by the EU which is also being supported by the Palestinian Shippers Council. In addition to encouraging alternative trade corridors to, and through, Jordan and the nearby Arab countries, the €3 million programme sets up a ‘National Export Strategy’ to improve Palestine’s international competitiveness as well as special measures to develop Palestine’s trade in services.

Medjool dates and Palestinian fruits and vegetables from the Jordan Valley are prized throughout the Arab world. Picture courtesy of PalTrade.

Jordan and the Arab Gulf states are being targetted by PalTrade and the new Jericho Agro-Industrial Park. Picture courtesy of PalTrade.

“A comprehensive package will be implemented to support the private sector in reaching new markets and developing marketing strategies,” the EU’s chief representative, John Gatt-Rutter, said at the official launch in Ramallah’s Movenpick Hotel on 27 February.
However, he also noted that its success depended on Israel complying with its international obligations to remove the existing barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the territories. “For this project to fully deliver its results…Israel has a major responsibility for ensuring access and movement and facilitating Palestinian trade,” he told his audience, which included Prime Minister Salah Fayyad, PalTrade’s CEO, Hanan Taha, and Maha Abu Shoshah, Chairman of the Shippers Council.

Last September, the European Parliament in Strassbourg approved a new trade agreement with the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem which allows EU members states to import agricultural products, including fish, directly, i.e. without going through Israel. “This is one of the most generous trade agreements in the agricultural sector signed by the EU,” the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, said at the time. “I want to be clear,” he added, that the European Commission is working to ensure that the EU does not buy any products from Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Continue reading

Palestine’s Economy: Is It Ready for Serious Investors?

Padico, a huge holding company in the West Bank whose interests run from telecoms and plastics to hotels and real estate, hit the global headlines in May when it became the first Palestinian company to raise a corporate bond — worth $70 million — in the international markets. Its success is seen as a sign that both private and foreign investment in the territories is about to increase markedly as the prospect of the UN’s recognition of Palestinian statehood looms in September.
Continue reading