After 52 years of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, there is a fact that cannot be brushed aside: Israel is addicted to the Palestinian economy. This addiction is the product of decades of systematic and forceful actions by the Israeli government to make the Palestinian economy structurally dependent on Israel. Just as with a drug addict or an alcoholic, external intervention is imperative for the sake of the addict and all those within his or her reach; otherwise, the self-inflicted damage will sooner or later be fatal.
After all this time under the boot of Israeli military occupation, enthusiastically supported by the United States every step of the way, Palestinians have a watertight case against participating in yet another workshop with those promising to be their saviors — like the one the Trump administration has called for on June 25 and 26 in Manama, Bahrain.
Anyone who has witnessed the last 25 years of the failure of the U.S.-led peace process knows that what needs to be done, albeit extremely belatedly, is to hold Israel accountable. This would mean using tools like boycotts, divestment, sanctions, diplomatic actions.
The Palestinians are doing their utmost on all these fronts. What’s missing today is for other states to uphold their legal and ethical obligations to do the same. Additionally, this upcoming “economic workshop” is a political moment, and the opportunity of a lifetime, for any country that has not yet formally recognized the State of Palestine to do so immediately, especially if it is truly committed to a two-state solution to this conflict.
How is Israel addicted to the Palestinian economy? Israel reaps $5 billion annually from the captive economy called the occupied Palestinian territory; the Palestinian market is one of Israel’s top export markets after the United States, China and Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. Israel is addicted to our customs tariffs, skimming a whopping 3 percent off every customs-dollar the Palestinian import-intensive economy generates.
Israel is addicted to our cheap but dedicated and skilled labor — for the benefit of its construction sector and its agricultural sector and itsservice sector. More recently, Israel expanded this labor addiction to include our knowledge-based professionals. Our military occupier has even taken out newspaper ads promoting a fast-track permit to go to Israel and directly connect our youth with Israeli high-tech firms, bypassing Palestinian firms.
Israel is addicted to our water. It controls the West Bank aquifers, forcing our agricultural sector to decline from 12 percent of our GDP to less than 5 percent. The World Bank has called these Israeli actions “structural damage” that will take generations to repair.