Israel, Arab nations rapped over Palestinian economy
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Israel, Arab nations rapped over Palestinian economy

World Bank blames Israel for $285 million annual PA revenue losses, Arab countries for $1.3 billion unpaid Gaza pledges

File: Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara, left, shakes hands with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz after a press conference regarding a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
File: Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara, left, shakes hands with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz after a press conference regarding a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The World Bank on Monday leveled accusations at Israel, Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority in a report issued before Tuesday’s gathering of international PA donor countries in Brussels.

It blamed outdated or insufficiently enforced fiscal agreements with Israel for annual losses of $285 million in Palestinian revenue, which it said equaled 2.2 percent of Palestinian gross domestic product.

It rapped Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab donors that had pledged reconstruction aid for Gaza at an international conference that followed the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, saying they had delivered only a small fraction of what was promised.

And it criticized the Palestinian Authority for having failed to open a “dedicated fund” to receive $669 million in pension payments collected by the Israeli government for Palestinians working in Israel.

File: World Bank headquarters in Washington DC (Photo credit: Courtesy World Bank)
World Bank headquarters in Washington DC (Courtesy World Bank)

The report was prepared ahead of the biannual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians.

Referring to the 1994 Paris Protocol, which governs economic ties between Israel and the Palestinian territories, the report said most revenue losses stem from “tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel in addition to undervaluation of Palestinian imports from third countries.”

It also noted handling fee Israel takes for imports en route to the Palestinians, which at the current rate of 3% “significantly outstrips costs incurred by (Israel) to handle Palestinian imports.” It recommended that the rate be reduced to 0.6%.

On pension payments collected by the Israeli government for Palestinians working in Israel, the report said that recent Israeli-Palestinian meetings, and Israel’s commitment to transfer $128 million to “offset some of the PA’s losses,” were “highly encouraging as a first step.”

The Israeli Finance Ministry said that it ensures that the Paris Accords are implemented and has reduced its handling fees, which total around $21 million.

At a 2014 conference in Cairo, the international community pledged some $3.51 billion in aid over three years to rebuild Gaza. According to Monday’s report, $1.41 billion has been delivered, compared to $2.71 billion that should have arrived based on the original schedule.

If donor funding continues at the current pace, pledges are expected to be complete by mid-2019, some two years behind schedule. the report said.

Some 171,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed during the war, according to UN figures.

In this Feb. 22, 2016 photo, a Palestinian woman hangs clothes in a section of a damaged apartment block, which was partially destroyed during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)
In this Feb. 22, 2016 photo, a Palestinian woman hangs clothes in a section of a damaged apartment block, which was partially destroyed during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)

Qatar, which pledged $1 billion, has only transferred $152 million, with Saudi Arabia transferring just over 10 percent of its $500 million pledge, the United Arab Emirates sending 15 percent of its $200 million commitment, and Kuwait providing none of the $200 million it promised. Turkey, one of the closest allies of the Strip’s Hamas rulers, has sent about a third of its $200 million donation.

By contrast, the United States has delivered all of the $277 million it pledged, while the European Union has sent nearly three-quarters of the $348 million it promised, according to the figures.

The international aid is meant to pass through the Palestinian Authority, bypassing Hamas, a terror group openly seeking to destroy Israel.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri urged donors to fulfill their pledges, warning that ongoing harsh conditions in Gaza could lead to renewed violence.

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