SEATTLE — Located by the Jordan River and home to 1.72 million vulnerable individuals, the West Bank is a landlocked territory currently under the jurisdiction of the State of Palestine and governed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
With 25.8 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the West Bank has become the focal point of the ongoing power struggle between the Hamas government in Gaza and Israel.
The withdrawal of international aid after the elections back in 2006 coupled with the inception of Intifada by the Hamas group only exacerbated the situation. Poverty in the West Bank continued to soar, and infrastructure began to steadily collapse.
The Israeli government constructed the Israeli-West Bank border in 2000 with the objective of protecting civilians in Israel. But this culminated in the loss of land and freedom for the people living in the West Bank.
It has been perpetually tedious for humanitarian aid to reach West Bank, and the death toll remains high. However, over the past few years, a series of new developments and projects has made the vital provision of aid much easier and alleviated some of the poverty in the West Bank.
This impact has been ubiquitous and the recent aid developments will benefit West Bank and pave the way for economic self-sufficiency.
The Israeli Cabinet recently agreed on a budget of NIS 82 million for bolstering the position of the tourism industry in the West Bank. This could combat the increasing levels of unemployment and boost per capita income.
The money will be dedicated to funding Youth programs and will do a lot to ameliorate various amenities and revamp existing infrastructure such as street lighting.
However, many see the existence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as deplorable as it may just be a method for Israel to further expand its territory as a buffer against hostilities. President Obama and the United Nations have recently condemned this action as it may only aggravate the situation and lead to dangerous counter attacks.
National Security Advisor, Susan Rice criticized the situation but spoke of striving for a 10-year military aid deal to help Israel safeguard the interests of West Bank and protecting other disputed areas. Maintaining security is yet another aid development that will address poverty in West Bank.
Child labor is an aspect that has plagued West Bank for a long time. According to Human Rights Watch, children often work in perilous situations. But the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have set out regulations that businesses need to adhere to in order to maintain ethical practices. Moreover, ILO standards need to be stringent to ensure this by monitoring supply chains.
Additionally, Turkey and Israel recently made headlines with a historic deal. Six years of diplomatic hostility ceased. Turkey resolved to provide more humanitarian aid to West Bank, along with approving the start-up of many major projects. The Jenin Industrial Zone is one of them. Improvements in power and infrastructure have also been agreed upon.
Furthermore, on June 27, 2016, the Board of Governors for the World Bank dedicated US$55 million to restore the Trust Fund. The grants will attract more investments in the sectors of education, energy, and land. This will greatly benefit the labor market and help reduce poverty in the West Bank.
The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) 2016 refugee appeal has culminated in the provision of US$51.6 million financial aid. Donald Blome, a U.S. Consul General, initiated a new ‘’e-card program’’ that has enabled individuals to go shopping by themselves. There is a certain sum of money in each card that the people can use. This new creation allows a much freer choice of food.
Even though there are mitigating factors, years of mistrust and indecision needs to be remediated with decisive political action so that residents can not only reap the benefits of aid developments, but also in turn alleviate poverty in the West Bank.
– Shivani Ekkanath