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From the ABC – The World Today: “Palestinians link foreign aid to occupation”.

(Hear) Anne Barker reports for the ABC, October 04, 2011.

PETER CAVE: The US congress has blocked about $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority as apparent punishment for its applying for statehood through the United Nations.

The Authority relies on hundreds of millions of dollars a year in aid from foreign donors.

But a new report suggests that Palestinians could easily survive without any aid at all if the Israeli occupation were to end.

The report, released by the Palestinian Economics Ministry, suggests the occupation is motivated more by economic gain than for security reasons, as Israel claims.

Middle East correspondent, Anne Barker, reports.

AHAVA AD: My skin reborn. New from Ahava ‘Extreme’ a…

ANNE BARKER: Ahava is a multi-million dollar Israeli company that makes cosmetics from the mineral rich mud of the Dead Sea.

AHAVA AD: Ahava’s secret of youth.

ANNE BARKER: Its beauty products are sold over the world.

Yet Ahava’s Dead Sea plant is in the West Bank, which is occupied Palestinian territory. Under international law it’s illegal for Israel to exploit natural resources on occupied land, meaning all such profits should go to the Palestinians.

For the first time the Palestinian Authority has calculated the cost of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It estimates the occupation is depriving the Palestinian economy of nearly US$7 billion a year in lost revenue, or a staggering 85 per cent of its total GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Hasan Abu-Libdeh, is the PA’s (Palestinian Authority) minister for economy.

HASAN ABU-LIBDEH: Israel occupies the Palestinian territory, abuses its lands and resources, confiscating the lands for the settlers’ activities and uses and this all we pay for. We, the Palestinians.

ANNE BARKER: A report by the Palestinian Authority’s Economics Ministry breaks down the $7 billion cost into key components.

So, the Israeli blockade on Gaza, for example, is estimated to cost nearly $2 billion a year because of the ban on exports and some imports. Restrictions on water use in the West Bank cost another $1.9 billion. Natural resource restrictions, including the loss of agricultural land, deprive the Palestinians of another $1.8 billion in revenue. And restrictions on movements of people and goods cost another $184 million.

One of the report’s authors is Jad Isaac from the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.

JAD ISAAC: Israel is exploiting 90 per cent of our water resources. They are building settlements on our land, they are causing hardship for our movement of goods and people which resulted in heavy losses to the Palestinian economy.

ANNE BARKER: In fact, the report estimates that without the occupation the Palestinian economy would triple in size. Meaning the PA could provide for its own people without having to depend on foreign aid.

Minister Hasan Abu-Libdeh says it’s a strong argument for ending the occupation and effectively proves Israel’s real motive for occupation is more about economic gain than security.

HASAN ABU-LIBDEH: It’s not only occupying Palestine for ideological reasons but it’s also occupying Palestine for economic reasons.

ANNE BARKER: The Israeli government has refused to discuss the report’s detail, but a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Ilana Stein, spoke to The World Today.

ILANA STEIN: We don’t want to talk about this or that claim of theirs because it’s besides the point. The issue is what are we going to do to resolve our problems?

ANNE BARKER: I mean is it beside the point though, the Palestinians say that this report is proof that Israel has a much larger economic interest than a security interest in occupying the Palestinian territories.

ILANA STEIN: Our main interest in this is to resolve this problem, the conflict, and having solutions and resolutions will be much better.

PETER CAVE: Ilana Stein, from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, speaking to our Middle East correspondent Anne Barker in Jerusalem.

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