Palestine under occupation III: mapping Israel’s policies and practices and their economic repercussions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

 Relief Web  /  June 24, 2022 

  • Israel’s policies and practices constitute a matrix of control and domination: control of the land and domination of the people.
  • Israel’s matrix of control and domination has undermined the Palestinian economy, leading to its evisceration, as well as to asymmetric dependency on Israel.
  • Establishment of a Palestinian State and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become almost impossible.
  • Israel’s matrix of control and domination entails grave violations of international law and deprives the Palestinians of their basic right to self-determination.
  • A rights-based approach to the Question of Palestine, grounded in international law and human rights, has become vital.
  • The international community has a responsibility to support the Palestinian people in reducing economic dependency on Israel, improving their resilience, and achieving sustainable development.
  • Peace can only be attained through full application of international law and principles of justice, and full enjoyment of peoples in the region of their rights.


UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia | ReliefWeb

Executive summary

Since 1967, Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) have been blighting Palestinian society, economy, and environment. They are at the core of Israel’s overarching strategy of fragmenting the Palestinian people, to maintain domination over them and prevent and pre-empt any challenge to the “Jewish character” of the State of Israel. In maintaining a military occupation and preventing establishment of a viable Palestinian state in line with international law, these policies and practices and their repercussions flagrantly negate equality in rights between Israelis and Palestinians. This study shows in some detail that they constitute a matrix of control and domination:

Controlling the land

Administrative, political, and physical fragmentation of the oPt has been instrumental in entrenching Israeli control over Palestinian land and resources: the West Bank is divided into three areas A, B and C; East Jerusalem is totally segregated from the rest of the oPt; and the Gaza Strip is blockaded and isolated from the West Bank. Measures used by Israel for acquisition and direct control of land include formal annexation, declaration of land as state land, closure of large areas as military zones, seizure of “absentee property”, confiscation for ostensible public needs, and declaration of privately owned land as unregistered public land. In addition, Israel controls and exclusively exploits the natural resources, including water aquifers and springs, the Dead Sea and its minerals, and the maritime areas of Gaza, while denying the Palestinians the possibility of exploiting the Gaza gas field and restricting the fishery area off Gaza. Meanwhile, Israeli settlements in the West Bank serve as a means for controlling resources, limiting movement, and stunting Palestinian development.

Dominating the people 

To maintain dominance over the Palestinians under its occupation, Israel employs a two-fold approach: demographic control and suppression of all forms of resistance. Israel’s control of the population registry allows it to impose demographic fragmentation and control, using various residency-status regulations. This is coupled with imposing restrictions on movement between the oPt and Israel and within the oPt. A clear manifestation in this respect is the revocation of residency status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, which amounts to de facto expulsion, while in the rest of the West Bank, Israel’s strict permit regime for Palestinian movement, residency, and construction is compounded by violence and intimidation and has created a coercive environment that seeks to displace the population in area C of the West Bank. Moreover, Israel suppresses all forms of Palestinian resistance to its policies, practices and the occupation in general, including by disproportionate use of force, typified by recurrent military assaults on the Gaza strip; military orders controlling the life of the Palestinians in the West Bank; several forms of collective punishment; excessive and arbitrary arrests, detention and imprisonment that amount to institutionalized ill treatment and torture. Thus, the system of domination over the Palestinian people comprises demographic fragmentation, subjugation, suppression, and control of everyday life.

These sets of policies compliment and interact with each other to form a matrix of control and domination.

Stunted economic development is an expected result of the Israeli policies of control of the land and domination over the people. Furthermore, Israel pursues de-development of the oPt and evisceration of its economy, through a web of measures, including willful destruction of means of production, chiefly in the Gaza Strip; an imposed customs union; a restrictive system of business permits in area C of the Wet Bank; constraints on use of natural resources; restrictions on importation of goods through almost arbitrary dual-use lists; curbs on banking and financial operations; and impediments to access to foreign markets.

After 1967, Israel’s strategy regarding the Palestinian economy was based on subordination and partial integration of Palestinian markets through free movement of people and goods between Israel and the oPt and allowing Palestinian labour flows into the Israeli economy. While integration of labour increased income inflows during the period 1967-1973, it weakened Palestinian productive sectors. In the late 1980s, Israel adopted a different strategy, one of movement restrictions and segregation of the Palestinian economy, which has led to de-development through extensive allocation of resources for settlements, notably after Oslo Accords.

The study has mapped Israeli policies, practices, and their eviscerating economic repercussions in an input-output matrix, showing how Israeli policies hinder productivity of each sector of the economy and prevent expansion of economic activities. De-development of the productive capacity has led to contraction of agriculture and manufacturing, with the share of agriculture in GDP decreasing from 33.2 per cent in 1972 to 8.1 per cent in 2019, and that of mining, quarrying and manufacturing languishing at less than 15 per cent. The de-development process and the deteriorating living conditions of the Palestinians have increased their need to work in Israel and to rely on commodities supplied through Israeli markets. Indeed, Israel, through the matrix of control and domination has eviscerated the Palestinian economy, locked it into a dependency relation, and subjugated it to Israeli diktat.

Based on mapping Israeli policies and practices and their economic repercussions, the study suggests three sets of policy options for the Palestinian Authority and the international community to mitigate the impact of Israeli occupation on the Palestinian economy. These policy options are classified according to their targets: improve access of Palestinians to their resources and infrastructure; reduce dependency of the Palestinian economy on Israel; and support tenacity and resilience of the Palestinian people in the oPt.

However, effectiveness of any policies remains questionable while Israel continues to violate the rights of the Palestinians to their resources, infrastructure, and markets. Israeli strategies and policies towards the oPt have constituted violations of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law and persist at the expense of the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people. Israel has been violating the principle of inadmissibility of annexation of an occupied territory.

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly evident that it is also violating the Law of Occupation; namely, the principle of temporality of a belligerent occupation. Indeed, Israeli policies and practices, including those eviscerating the Palestinian economy, are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations and the principal concepts of international law: the right of peoples to self-determination and the prohibition of acquiring territory by force.

Thus, an international-law and rights-based approach to the Question of Palestine has become vital. Such an approach would be grounded on human rights, including the right to self-determination, the right to development, and the right of return of Palestine refugees, while requiring the international community to shoulder the responsibility for imposing a rights-based framework by making Israel accountable, ending its impunity, and forcing it to abide by international law.