Minister of Finance Nabeel Kassis asked the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting New York on Sunday to help the Palestinian Authority to reclaim area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control.
In a report entitled “Moving Beyond the Status Quo: Safeguarding the Two-State Solution,” Kassis presented the Palestinian vision regarding the need to reclaim and develop the so-called Area C in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which makes up over 60% of the Palestinian Territory and is home to vital natural resources.
The report also includes an actionable plan that outlines measures the international community and Israel must take in order to preserve the foundations of the Palestinian state.
“Developing Area C is necessary, not only because this area is important for the viability of the State of Palestine, but more so and primarily because this area is part and parcel of the Palestinian Territory and as such cannot and should not be excluded in any development effort,” said Kassis.
He also emphasized that the PA's priorities in this regard are areas that affect lives and livelihoods, in particular health, education, employment, water, electricity and agriculture in addition to encouraging the private sector.
In his speech to the AHLC, Kassis emphasized, “the greater part of Palestinian lands is being gradually emptied of its Palestinian inhabitants in order to provide room for more colonization by Israel.”
He pointed to the fragmentation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory through the continuous expansion of illegal settlements and attached infrastructure, including the Wall, the continued Israeli policy of demolition of Palestinian homes water wells and fruit trees, land confiscation, and forced eviction of Palestinians from Area C and occupied East Jerusalem.
The Minister of Finance also warned that Israel's permits policy “is strangling the economy and destabilizing the seed of the two-state solution.”
The Minister discussed the current fiscal crisis confronting the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). He affirmed that the crisis threatens the sustainability of the PA’s institutions and the integrity of its social fabric and communal well-being and sense of security, adding, “No doubt, if the status quo is allowed to persist, it will have dire consequences to the international enterprise of peace making in the Middle East.”
“We have been trying to get as close as possible to self-reliance in covering the recurrent budget. This goal could not be achieved and cannot be achieved as long as the occupation regime prevails and its restrictive measures continue,” said Kassis.
He added, “The PNA has been trying to narrow the deficit in its budget by cutting down on expenditures, implementing measures to enhance revenues, and supporting private sector activity,” measures he stressed enjoyed support from donors and local banks.
In the meantime, said Kassis, “continued financial support by the donor community, combined with sustained efforts by the PNA and necessarily augmented with tangible roll-back of Israeli occupation, is the only way out of the fiscal crisis.”
The minister also reiterated that despite this crisis, the international recognition of the Palestinians' institutional readiness for statehood is still valid.
But he warned, “Unfortunately, equally valid is the conclusion regarding impediments to private sector activity and Palestinian economic development. Israeli restrictive measures which bar freedom of movement and access to all Palestinian areas, including East Jerusalem, are still preventing Palestinians from realizing their full development potential.”
Establishing a sovereign and viable independent Palestinian State was crucial to securing peace and stability, Kassis stressed.
“Without united international action to enforce the provisions of international law and the UN resolutions relevant to the Palestinian cause, we will face the prospects of an irreversible collapse of the two-state solution,” he concluded.