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INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Calls for pressure on Israel to ease movement restrictions which are crippling the Palestinian economy and causing soaring poverty
Members of the Select Committee on International Development have today expressed serious concern over a range of policies adopted by the Israeli government and the negative impact they are having on living conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The report paints a bleak picture of life in the Occupied Territories. It points out that malnutrition rates in Gaza and parts of the West Bank equal those in sub-Saharan Africa and regional unemployment stands at a staggering 60-70%. Difficulties transporting goods into, out of, and within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), have led to soaring poverty and near economic collapse.
Although highly sympathetic to Israeli safety concerns, the Committee says that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a deliberate Israeli approach of putting the lives of ordinary Palestinians under stress as part of a strategy to bring the population to heel. Certain security measures, including the construction of the security barrier and movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians, are completely undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state, the report concludes.
The Committee is calling for both the EU and the UK government to take a stronger stance on these issues and to consider using economic pressure to persuade Israel to ease restrictions.
Committee members add that donors and the international community should not shy away from advocating a change in Israeli policies. They conclude that it is in the interest of Israel to have a stable, economically viable neighbour, rather than a failed state which will only serve to spawn terrorism.
The findings are the result of a detailed six month inquiry which involved taking written and oral evidence as well as a fact-finding visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Commenting on the report Committee
Chairman Tony Baldry MP said:
"Our report is a balanced assessment of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It shows that Israel's security policy is having a marked impact on everyday life. Key measures, such as the construction of a security barrier higher than the Berlin Wall, may bring the mirage of immediate security to Israelis, but the level of despair felt by ordinary Palestinians at being denied an ordinary life can only increase the supply of suicide bombers. Nor is it likely to illicit any concessions from the Palestinian leaders.
"We can understand why Israel, fearful for its security, wants to build a barrier, but any such fence should be constructed on Israeli, not Palestinian, land. Israel's current policy is creating widespread despair and destitution. In such conditions, extremism can flourish, suicide bombers can be easily recruited and Palestinian leaders are unlikely to make concessions. This downward spiral is in no-one's interests."
The report also highlights the difficulties that development and humanitarian organisations face when working in Gaza and the West Bank under Israeli security constraints. The Committee believes that donors should seek assurances from Israel that infrastructure built for the purpose of development will not be destroyed.
Other specific findings and recommendations include:
Suicide bombing, as well as being morally abhorrent, has been a catastrophic tactic that has done great harm to the Palestinian cause, and that the targeting of innocent civilians is indefensible. Condemnation of these acts by the Palestinian Authority needs to be heard more widely.
There is a need for further reform of the Palestinian Authority particularly in relation to the accountability of the Presidential accounts and in terms of legal, executive and judicial reforms. Continuing to drive through planned reforms is the best way for the PA to deal with its critics.
Consideration should be given by the Secretary-General of the UN, under the authority of the Security Council, to appointing a Humanitarian Envoy to ensure that the occupation is humane.
A more forceful approach by the UK Government is needed on the issue of the security barrier and the applicability of international law to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
A more sensitive and appropriate approach to checkpoint management is needed.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. Embargoed advance copies of the report are available to members of the press and witnesses on Wednesday 4 February at 10am from the press gallery of the House of Commons, or reception at 7 Millbank. The report will also be available on the Committee' website from 3.30 pm on the day of publication.
2. Full terms of reference along with evidence transcripts are available on the Committee's website.
Committee Membership is as follows: is as follows: Tony Baldry (Chairman) (Conservative, Banbury), John Barrett (Liberal Democrat, Edinburgh West), Mr John Battle (Labour, Leeds West), Hugh Bayley (Labour, City of York), Ann Clwyd (Labour, Cynon Valley), Mr Tony Colman (Labour, Putney), Mr Quentin Davies (Conservative, Grantham and Stamford); Mr Piara S. Khabra (Labour, Ealing, Southall), Chris McCafferty (Labour, Calder Valley), Mr Andrew Robathan (Conservative, Blaby) and Tony Worthington (Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie).
4. News Release: No. 9 2003-4
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