JENIN MONITORING REPORT
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 13 Oct 2009
Since mid-2007, after Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank has become the focus of an international strategy in which aid and international political recognition would be heaped on the territory under PA rule, with the purpose of bolstering the peace process and further isolating an impoverished and extremist Gaza Strip.
Overemphasis has been put on security with millions of dollars pledged for security sector reform and for helping Fayyad’s government to curb Islamic militants and establishing an unchallenged supremacy in the West Bank, the only way to guarantee a resumption of the diplomatic negotiations where they had been left off in 2005.
Jenin, once the city of suicide bombers and a the symbol of Palestinian armed resistance, has been chosen by the Quartet in consultation with Israel and the PA as test case for the international effort of integrating the restructuring and strengthening of PA institutions and a struggling economy as part of the larger peace process.
The pilot project, to be extended in the future to other locations in the West Bank, entailed the deployment in Jenin of hundreds of PA security men -trained under US supervision in Jordan- to enforce law and order and bring about stability, and specific economic measures and movement facilitations to improve the quality of life of the residents and show them that is possible to build statehood from the ground up.
Soon after the deployment, PA forces have achieved impressive results in the security realm, with the city now almost free from thugs and gunmen and local residents feeling safe at any time while walking the streets. The perseverance and seriousness of PA security forces in undertaking this endeavor have been acknowledged, and applauded, by the wider international community, that has also promised a lot of funds for supporting the economic aspect of the pilot.
However, as Israel still deems the PA not ready to engage in counterterrorist operations, the lifting of the occupation that was supposed to occur as soon as the Palestinians proved to be able to handle wider security responsibilities has been happening at a snail’s pace. Albeit reduced in their frequency, IDF night incursions are still ongoing, especially in the refugee camp and some villages. In addition, no main checkpoint has been removed, but only some roadblocks.
As a consequence of the impossibility of free movement for goods and people in and out Jenin, economic improvements have not materialized yet. In particular, only a small number of Israeli-Arabs on foot have been allowed to pass the Jalameh checkpoint to shop in Jenin and the fact that they cannot cross by car means that the limited quantity of goods they can buy is not likely to have a significant impact on the local economy. Furthermore, high cost of transportation and high levels of uncertainty in business due to the closure regime have been causing severe losses for Jenin traders, especially in the agricultural sector.
Moreover, almost no international money pledged for investments and projects in Jenin has been actually disbursed by donors, whose efforts and attention have all been devoted to the Gaza Strip after the recent war. Despite many illustrious international visitors and words of praise for what has been achieved in the security situation of the town, the economic part of the project is at a standstill.
While quite successful in the security domain, then, overall the pilot can be considered only a partial success story, as Jenin’s residents so far have not really been reaping the benefits of this renewed focus of the international community on Jenin. The ‘peace and security dividends’ that should have resulted from greater access, investment and donor support are still imperceptible.
The toughest challenge ahead is for the PA, Israel and the donor community to take steps to improve the everyday economic conditions of the Jenin people. Of course, as long as the current situation of closure and mobility restrictions lasts, it will be difficult both to plan for long-term improvement and to seriously advance the peace process.
To the Palestinian Authority and the local government in Jenin
1. Guarantee good governance and the respect of human rights in Jenin by investigating arrests, illegal detentions and any other allegation of human right abuses against Hamas supporters by PA security forces and by allowing access of human rights organizations to all places of detention.
2. Ensure that the Palestinian Monetary Authority grants special tax cuts to local businesses and draft regulations that call for banks in Jenin to offer low-interest business loans.
3. Consider the possibility of building a Ministry in Jenin, so as to give the population a strong sign of the presence of the PA in town and to encourage the local economy.
4. Give particular attention and priority to Jenin in the formulation of programs and plans for Palestinian economic development.
5. Work to obtain foreign funding for projects in the economic and social services sector.
6. Intensify the education campaign on security, public order and good citizenship so as to develop a sound and sustainable culture of democracy and respect of the public good that can constitute a stable foundation for the security achievements obtained.
To the Government of Israel
1. Alleviate the closure regime and allow freedom of movements for goods and people through all checkpoints vital for Jenin’s economy. This requires Israeli decision makers to change their mindsets from "security eyes" to a wider perspective. They should lead the policy, instead of following the security forces.
2. Allow Israeli-Arab visitors to pass through the Jalameh crossing by car.
3. Increase the number of permits for Jenin workers to work in Israel.
4. Grant the Palestinian Authority full authority over the land under its security control, Area A, by allowing Palestinian security forces to operate 24h/24h and be adequately equipped and by stopping the already reduced IDF night incursions into the Jenin area. The IDF and the ISA continued to carry out security arrests without coordinating with the Palestinians, but the continuous interventions and the lack of coordination weaken the PA. Thus, Israeli security forces should interrupt their "business as usual", as if not much has changed.
5. Built reciprocal trust between security forces of Israel and the PA. The Israelis should also try to re-examine their actions, instead of automatically conducting them, since this misses the point of the pilot, and an eventual change in reality.
6. End the embargo for the 300 products that cannot be brought into Jenin (most of them chemical agents used in agriculture that are deemed as potentially dangerous by the Israeli Government) and allow agricultural products to be sold outside Jenin, for example in the markets of Ramallah or Nablus.
To the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN) and the international donors community
1. Press Israel to fulfil its commitments on the facilitation of movements and access for goods and people in and out Jenin, especially by opening the Jalameh checkpoint to traffic.
2. Couple relief/emergency projects for Jenin with the formulation of a longer-term development strategy consistent with the objectives of the Jenin District Strategic Development Plan 2008-2017.
3. Seriously engage in diplomatic efforts to push the peace process forward and build a more favourable political environment in order for the achievements of the security campaign to last and constitute a stable foundation for economic development in the Jenin governorate.
4. Actively push for improvement and growth in the entire West Bank, needed in order to open up Jenin’s economy and create sustainable jobs. Therefore encouragement of private investments is needed, as well as donors’ help to other parts of the West Bank. The strategic goal of an economically viable Palestinian state is achievable only if the West Bank is supported as an integral economic entity.
Assistant Researcher: Anat Cygielman
Final Editing: Lara Innesti
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Oct 2009.
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