OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES – OPT

  • Population: 2800000, 1700000 and 1100000 in the West Bank to Gaza (2008).
  • Surface area: 6.170 sq km.
  • Administrative Divisions: West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza

For figures, go to West Bank and Gaza information files.

The Palestinian territories are made out of:

  • A zone : Gaza and the towns of Jericho, Jenin, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Rulkarem, Nablus and Bethlehem. In this area the Palestinian Authority has its own police (18% Territories)
  • B zone : which includes other areas of the West Bank in which security is exercised by the Palestinian National Authority and the Israeli army (22% Territories)
  • C area : which includes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Area C is under control of Israel (60% Territories)

History

In 1948 the partition plan of the United Nations predicted that Palestine should be divided into two states, one Jewish and one Arabic. Of the two states originally planned, only the Jewish state has emerged. Indeed, during 1948 war, Transjordan seized of the current West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.

In 1967, the Six Day War marked a turning point with the annexation by Israel of the Syrian Golan, the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Resolution 242, adopted Security Council in 1967 touches upon several aspects of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notably its territorial dimension. The Council demanded the « withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories. » The voluntary ambiguity of this sentence (which does not plan withdrawal from all territories) has been discussed for a long time, Israel did not withdraw troops and invaded East Jerusalem.

The Oslo Accords led to almost complete autonomy in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian National Council declared a « State of Palestine » recognized by a hundred countries. However all these areas often remain under Israeli control, which continues to close some access.

The Palestinian Authority established in 1995 enjoys its own police force and manages issues of domestic policy.

Since 1997 Benjamin Netannyahou resumed the policy of colonization of occupied territories and East Jerusalem.

In February 2005, Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza. Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of violence. Colonization of the West Bank has nevertheless accelerated and the construction of the wall has almost reached an end.

A World Bank report in 2007 indicated that physical barriers undermined movement of people in the West Bank: check point, roadblocks or portals. The Palestinians are denied access to 41 sections of roads, most of them reserved to settlers. This dramatically slows the Palestinian economy while impeding the free access of people to care and education.

In April 2008, the World Bank has predicted that despite the promises of international aid, economic growth in the Palestinian territories would be zero in 2008 due to restrictions imposed by Israel.

Unemployment rates in the territories amount to 23% in the West Bank and 33% in the Gaza Strip. The percentage of people living in « extreme poverty » now exceeds 35%

Domestic politics

The Palestinian Authority represents the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was created in 1993 with the Oslo Accords. The President of the Palestinian Authority is elected for a maximum of 5 years. It is also composed of an assembly elected by universal suffrage, police and representatives in several countries. Yasser Arafat became its president in 1996. He died in 2004. Raouhi Fatouh, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council then held the presidency of the Palestinian Authority for a period of 60 days. Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January 2005, and since then fought for the creation of a Palestinian state.

That same year the political situation in the Territories got acrimonious as Hamas won in parliamentary elections. Fatah fell within the opposition and Ismail Haniyeh formed a government. Since then Palestine went and still goes through an internal crisis: Internationally, States refuse dialogue with Hamas and the Israeli attacks have increased. In June 2007 tensions between the two parties are such that a war breaks out. On 17 June 2007, Hamas controls the Gaza Strip totally displacing the Fatah Territory. Ismail Haniyeh was immediately sacked and replaced by Salam Fayyad.

The EU and Palestine

The nature of economic relations between the European Union and Palestine is mainly based on emergency financial assistance and humanitarian shipments. The EU is the most generous donor to the Palestinian Authority and has been especially during the intifada.

The European Community and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a commercial agreement on February 24, 1997 (see the EU and the PLO agreements). The agreement was approved by Parliament on April 9, 1997 (372 votes in favour, 5 against, 4 abstentions). The Oslo accords did not allow the Palestinian Authority to sign international agreements, the PLO has done on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The first committee of this agreement took place on May 23, 2000 in Brussels.

After the start of the Oslo peace process, the European Community launched a special programme of assistance to the Palestinian population. The total EU aid for the period 1994-98 was 1.5 billion, of which 441 million ECU from the Community budget, 864 million ECU Member States and 184 million ECUs in loans the European Investment Bank. To this figure should be added 0.5 billion ECU (169 million ECU of the EU budget and 336 Member States) to UNRWA. Thus, the total European aid for this period was 2 billion ECU.

For more information you may go to :

  • PNA Palestinian National Authority Official Website.
  • PASSIA Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (Passia).
  • El Khabar Newspaper in Arabic and French.
  • > Bethlehem News English Newspaper.
  • Al Esteqlal Arabic Newspaper.
  • Gaza News Arabic Newspaper.
  • Al Ayyam Arabic Newspaper.
  • Al Quds Arabic Newspaper.
  • Al Massar Arabic Newspaper.
  • Palestine Daily English Newspaper.
  • Palestine Chronicle English Newspaper.
  • Palestine Times English Newspaper.