(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)
The Palestinian economy in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) has shown signs of strengthening since the beginning of the year, according to a recent analysis by the Civil Administration. The analysis was based on data gathered by the Civil Administration as well as publicly available figures.
There have been large increases in the passage of commercial goods as a direct result of the increase in employment licenses and trade permits issued to Palestinian merchants and business owners by the Civil Administration since the beginning of 2008.
There has also been a significant rise in the number of Palestinians using public transportation in the region, as well as a large expansion of the tourism industries in central cities such as Bethlehem and Jericho. Fresh agricultural crops exported to Israel have grown by 25% (despite significant damage caused by the frost that hit the region during the last winter). The "Al Kuds" Palestinian capital markets index has risen, as opposed to the trend on global stock markets, and the successful Bethlehem Investor Conference in May is predicted to lead to an increase in foreign investment.
All these indicators reflect on the significant improvement in the Palestinian economy in the West Bank in the first half of 2008.
The opening of several major crossing points for free passage to Palestinians, over the past few months, as well as the removal of approximately 100 IDF checkpoints from the region, is an important factor contributing to the improvement in the regional economy. These actions were part of the package of goodwill gestures authorized by the Minister of Defense and the IDF Chief of General Staff.
Major crossings that were opened recently include: the Ganot crossing (connecting Nablus to its northern villages), the Judea Junction crossing (enabling free motor vehicle passage between Hebron and the Tarqumiya crossing), the Bet-Ha'Arava crossing (connecting the Judea and Samaria region with the Jordan valley) and the Sheep Junction crossing (connecting Hebron to its southern villages). Additionally, two major roads were built to improve the quality of life for Palestinians. These connect the Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem with Ramallah, and were opened with an investment of tens of millions of shekels from Israel's security budget.
The use of biometric systems at various crossing points has been developed and extended. More than 500,000 crossings using biometric systems were recorded during the first six months of 2008. Additionally, the number of Palestinians who benefit from VIP transit passes has grown to 1,500. This figure includes senior figures in the Palestinian Authority and senior businessman in the West Bank.
In addition, another trend in the improving economy is the increased involvement of international actors in local social and relief projects. The involvement of foreign governments, amongst others, has brought an investment of tens of millions of dollars to different projects in the region.
Statistical indictors reflecting the strengthening of the economy in the West Bank in the first half of 2008
Unemployment Rates in Judea and Samaria 2004-2008
During the first quarter of 2008, the unemployment rate was 19%. There was a slight decrease compared to the last quarter of 2007.
Daily wage figures (NIS) in the West Bank 2006-2008
Comparison of monthly movement of goods (1st half of 2006 - 1st half of 2008)
Tourism to Bethlehem
* During the 1st half of 2008, a 94.3% increase in tourists visiting Bethlehem was recorded in as compared to the parallel period in 2007.
* Additionally, there was a 36.5% increase in relation to the previous half year.
Visitors per half year (thousands)
Tourism to Jericho
This year, there was a 42.7% increase in the number of tourists visiting Jericho during the 1st half of 2008 as compared to the parallel period in 2007.
Foreign Visitors per half year (thousands)
Used commercial vehicle import
Governmental vehicle imports
Users of Palestinian public transportation
Total public transportation use
(1st half of 2006 - 1st half of 2008)
Palestinian employment data
Total work permits issued for Palestinians
Total number of working permits issued
for work inside Israel
Total number of working permits issued
for work in Judea and Samaria