Developments in Palestine

Updated: 1 May 2015

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has lasted for more than 60 years and today the positions are locked in the peace process. The Israeli occupation and the recurring Gaza wars have turned disaster into a normal state for many Palestinians and dependence on foreign aid is high.

The work of Sweden and the EU in Palestine is based on a two-state solution to be negotiated by the two parties. The starting point are the borders from 1967 but today the peace process is at a stalemate. Whenever there has been progress it has soon been followed by setbacks.

The weak economy of the Palestinian Authority and the high dependence on foreign aid are factors that hamper state-building. In addition, the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation make development cooperation even more expensive and difficult.

The Fatah-dominated official Palestinian Authority is based in the West Bank, but Gaza is controlled by Hamas. This, together with the Israeli blockade, makes it difficult for the Palestinian Authority to act in Gaza. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government in 2014.

The situation on human rights has major flaws and there are signs of deterioration. The rule of law is weak and violations are committed by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto government in Gaza. The negative trend affects not least the situation of women, especially in Gaza.

In 2014 the Swedish government decided to recognize the state of Palestine. In 2015 Palestine became a member of the International Criminal Court, ICC. The membership means that Palestine can take Israel to the court, but also that the Palestinians themselves can be prosecuted.

Disaster – everyday life in Gaza

The Gaza wars in 2009, 2012 and 2014 have created new urgent needs among the population. When the ceasefire was announced in the summer of 2014, the war had lasted for seven weeks and more than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed according to the UN, estimating that the majority of those killed were civilians, including several hundred children. More than 400,000 Palestinians had fled their homes in areas that had been targeted by Israeli attacks. On the Israeli side missile attacks had claimed the lives of seven civilians. 66 soldiers had been killed since the ground operation began.

The physical destruction from the war was huge. Houses, electricity, water and sewage systems need to be rebuilt. However, the Israeli blockade allows for a very limited import.

Four out of five people in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian assistance from the outside world and the private sector has virtually no ability to export.

An island nation on land

In the West Bank, the situation is better than in Gaza. But still approximately half of the population lives in poverty. In the West Bank, the unemployment rate was 16 per cent in 2011, while almost half of the population of Gaza was without a job.

While Gaza is completely isolated, the problem in the West Bank is that the area has been cut up into small islands. The Israeli separation barrier, which is the name of the wall, and other Israeli restrictions that protect illegal Israeli settlements on occupied territory effectively separate the Palestinian areas. This results in weak economic development and limited access to health care and education. Large parts of the separation barrier are built on Palestinian land.

In order to get from one part of the West Bank to another, Palestinians are forced to spend hours at the border crossings that are controlled by the Israeli military.

According to the UN agency OCHA, there were Israeli settlements covering 43 per cent of the West Bank in 2012. During the first half of 2013 the construction of more than 1,700 homes was initiated within the illegal settlements, compared to 995 during the same period in 2012. The settlements are expanding in violation of international law, resulting in the Palestinian areas being emptied of people. In 1992, there were approximately 100,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank. 20 years later, the number has increased to 520,000, including East Jerusalem.

Destruction of Palestinian property and violation of Palestinian rights in violation of international law are common. Thousands of Palestinians have left the areas and today only about 150,000 Palestinians remain in the most exposed of the occupied territories.

Tug of war for the holy town

Jerusalem is an important city both to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Israel states that Jerusalem is their capital, which is not accepted by the UN and the international community. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

More than a quarter of a million Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. At the same time, the Israeli settlements are expanding here and Palestinians are increasingly exposed to evictions, and difficulties to get building permits for houses.

Page owner: Department for Asia, North Africa and Humanitarian Assistance

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