Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, Prime Minister Shtayyeh, Director General Ushpiz,
I would like to thank Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and her team for organizing this meeting.
At the AHLC’s last meeting, many voiced their view that economic moves alone are no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rather, economic steps must be anchored in a political framework.
Therefore, the Chair’s summary from the last meeting called on the partners to “work with the parties to prepare a political package of gradual, lasting and meaningful steps with commitments for their implementation”.
We presented such a package in our report to this meeting. Each element of the package is designed to link immediately achievable steps with the broader goal of creating a policy horizon.
Let me briefly address the four main recommendations of our report:
First, the drivers of the conflict must be addressed. This requires the parties to significantly reduce tensions and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including settler-related violence.
Militant activity in Gaza and the West Bank must stop. Unilateral moves that undermine peace should also be halted – particularly settlement advances, including outposts, demolitions and displacement. I call on all relevant parties to address the contentious issues surrounding Jerusalem and to ensure full respect for the status quo.
Second, efforts are needed to strengthen Palestinian institutions and meet the Palestinian governance challenge. This requires strengthening the fiscal health of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in line with World Bank and IMF recommendations. It also requires strengthening the political legitimacy and accountability of the PA through democratic reforms and opening up civil society space and holding free and fair elections in the occupied territories, and restoring the effectiveness and credibility of the Palestinian security forces.
Third, improving access, freedom of movement and trade would create space for the Palestinian economy to grow. Steps should be taken to improve Palestinian access to land and resources in Zone C of the West Bank. This should include further dismantling of restrictions and barriers and other structural barriers to trade, while further increasing permits for Palestinian development. Developing economic activity in Zone C for the Palestinians is essential if the tax reforms we recommend are to make any sense and make a difference.
In Gaza, the increase in the number of work permits to the highest level since 2007 is positive. At the same time, a more comprehensive approach to easing restrictions on the movement of people and goods should be developed. Reconnecting the economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be a related goal for which efforts must be made by all parties.
Fourth, the parties should mutually commit to rethinking their economic and administrative relationship. Advances in this area could attract much-needed investment and boost growth in both economies. With the expansion of permits for Palestinian workers in Israel, accelerating reforms to the permit system should be a priority. The resolution of long-standing tax files has high priority. Improving cooperation between the finance ministries and monetary authorities of the parties will be of great importance
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
This ambitious reform agenda must be actively supported by international partners.
There is an urgent need to create a political horizon for a two-state reality. Prime Minister Lapid’s declared commitment to two states in the General Assembly today was an important affirmation. While we know that this reality cannot materialize overnight, the immediate steps we are now urging parties and donors to take should be consciously linked to this political goal. Our package of recommendations — which addresses security issues, Palestinian governance, access and movement, Palestinian access in Zone C, and the institutional relationship between Israel and the PA — are all linked to important unresolved final status issues. Advances in these areas – with the right political significance – can restore political horizons and buy much-needed time to return to meaningful negotiations.