UN envoy: Lift territories closure
By Lamia Lahoud and Reuters


JERUSALEM (December 6) - UN special Middle East envoy Terje Roed-
Larsen said yesterday that Israel's closure of the Palestinian
territories has had a devastating effect on the Palestinian economy,
greatly increased the number of people living below the poverty line,
and fueled more anger. He said this hampers the peace process and
warned that the violence may spread across borders and turn into a
new Middle East war.

"The situation as it is now is not tenable. It may continue the way
it is right now for a few more weeks... It could deteriorate sharply,
dramatically, and tragically, which may produce regional spillovers
so we will face a regional war," he said."The only way to save the
situation is for the parties to return quickly to the negotiating
table and make the painful compromises they have to," he said.

Larsen's office this week released a report on the Palestinian
economy, stating that between September 28 and November 26 it lost
some $505 million. As a result, the number of Palestinians living on
less than NIS 9 a day has doubled over the past three months.
According to a World Bank estimate, the poverty rate will reach 31.8%
by the end of December and 43.8% by the end of next year, since the
effects of the closure will have a long-term effect on the
Palestinian economy.

Some 110,000 Palestinian laborers have been prevented from working in
Israel, and many others are unable to get from one Palestinian area
to another to work. The UN report said each laborer supports at least
four people, magnifying the effect of unemployment.

"The risk here is that one produces through these policies a new
generation of Palestinians where hatred, anger, and resentment will
stay for decades. This in the longer and shorter term is the greatest
threat to the security situation," Larsen said. "What was achieved in
progress as concerns the living conditions of the Palestinians over
the last three years has been completely destroyed over the last two
months."

There has been a major loss of import and export duties, due to the
closure of international passages in and out of the Palestinian
areas.

Some 60% of all Palestinian Authority revenues were from transfers of
taxes collected by Israel, which has stopped the transfer of funds
since the beginning of the intifada.

The private sector is also suffering. At Israeli customs depots,
Palestinian imports are held up for weeks for which the importer must
pay daily storage and other charges. Many Palestinians are not
clearing their goods since the fees are not worth the cargo, leaving
the Israeli forwarder stuck with the shipping costs.