After Israel’s latest military operation and the massive devastation that followed in Gaza, the international community pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help rebuild the Strip. However, a lasting end to the conflict between Israel and Palestine will not be possible without a long-term investment in the economic and human development of Palestine, amounting to billions of dollars a year.
One overlooked way to generate these revenues would be to allocate to Palestine its fair share of the profits from oil and natural gas reserves in the Occupied Territories and the Eastern Mediterranean, which are currently only exploited by Israel.
A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points out that new discoveries of natural gas in the Levant basin are in the order of 122 trillion cubic feet, while recoverable oil is estimated at 1, 7 billion barrels. These reserves provide an opportunity to distribute and share approximately $ 524 billion between different parts of the region.
The Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967 and the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 have prevented the Palestinian people from exercising any control over their own fossil fuel resources, denying them the tax and export revenues from which they badly needed and leaving the Palestinian economy on the verge of collapse.
The economic costs inflicted on the Palestinian people under occupation are well documented: strict restrictions on the movement of people and goods; confiscation and destruction of property and assets; loss of land, water and other natural resources; a fragmented domestic market and separation of neighboring and international markets; and the expansion of Israeli settlements illegal under international law.
The Palestinian people also have limited control over their fiscal space and politics. In accordance with the stipulations of the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations, Israel controls Palestinian monetary policy, borders and trade. It also collects customs duties, VAT, and income taxes from Palestinians employed in Israel, which it then pays to the Palestinian government. UNCTAD estimates that, under occupation, the Palestinian people lost $ 47.7 billion in tax revenue over the period 2007-2017, including income disclosed to Israel and accrued interest. In comparison, the Palestinian government’s development spending during the same period was around $ 4.5 billion.
The prolonged closure and recurring military operations in Gaza have left more than half of the territory’s population living below the poverty line and cost $ 16.7 billion in lost GDP each year. This figure does not take into account the enormous opportunity cost of preventing the Palestinian people from using their natural gas field off the coast of Gaza.
The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, known as the Oslo II Agreement, gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) maritime jurisdiction over its waters until 20 nautical miles from the coast. The Palestinian Authority signed a 25-year gas exploration contract with the British Gas Group in 1999, and a large gas field, Gaza Marine, was discovered 17 to 21 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. same year. However, despite initial talks between the Israeli government, the PA and British Gas over selling gas from this field and providing much-needed income to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Palestinians have realized no benefit.
Since the blockade of Gaza in 2007, the Israeli government has established de facto control over Gaza’s offshore natural gas reserves. The contractor, British Gas, has since dealt with the Israeli government, effectively bypassing the Palestinian government over exploration and development rights.
Israel has also taken control of the Meged oil and natural gas field, located inside the occupied West Bank. Israel says the field is west of the 1948 armistice line, but most of the reservoir is located under Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
More recently, Israel has started to develop new oil and gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean, purely for its own benefit.
By requisitioning and exploiting Palestinian oil and gas resources, Israel is acting in violation of the letter and spirit of the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Convention and a body of international humanitarian and human rights law. man who deals with the exploitation of common resources by a power occupier, without regard for the interests, rights and shares of the occupied population.
The international community has so far pledged $ 860 million for the reconstruction of Gaza after the recent assault, but even before the latest military aggression, UNCTAD estimates that it would cost at least $ 838 million per year to get out of the country. Gaza population out of poverty. A fair share of oil and gas revenues would provide Palestinians with sustainable financing to invest in long-term economic reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery. The alternative is for these common resources to be exploited individually and exclusively by Israel, and become another trigger for conflict and violence.
Of course, a sustainable economic recovery and a lasting political settlement go hand in hand. The United Nations maintains its long-standing position that lasting and comprehensive peace can only be achieved through a negotiated two-state solution. The United Nations continues to work for the establishment of an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, existing in peace and security with Israel. The economic survival of a Palestinian state will depend on the ability of the Palestinians to control their own economy and to have equitable access to their share of the oil and gas reserves in Palestine.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.