Following Israel’s latest military operation and the devastating massacre in Gaza, the international community has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help rebuild the Strip. However, a lasting end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be possible without a long-term investment in the economic and human development of Palestine, which will reach billions of dollars a year.
An ignored means of generating this revenue would be to allocate to Palestine its fair share of the benefits of oil and natural gas reserves to the occupied territories and the eastern Mediterranean, which currently only exploit Israel.
A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points out that new natural gas discoveries in the Levant basin range from 122 trillion cubic feet, while recoverable oil is estimated at 1.7 billion barrels. These reserves offer the opportunity to distribute and share about $ 524 billion among different parts of the region.
The Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967 and the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 have prevented the Palestinian people from exercising any control over their own fossil fuel resources, denying them tax and export revenues that they needed and leaving the Palestinian economy on the verge of collapse.
The economic costs inflicted on the Palestinian people under occupation are well documented: tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods; the confiscation and destruction of property and property; loss of land, water and other natural resources; a fragmented internal market and the separation of neighboring and international markets; and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements under international law.
The Palestinian people also exercise limited control over their fiscal space and policy. Under the stipulations of the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations, Israel controls Palestinian monetary policy, borders and trade. It also collects customs duties, VAT and income taxes on Palestinians employed in Israel which it will then disburse to the Palestinian government. UNCTAD estimates that under occupation, the Palestinian people have lost $ 47.7 billion in tax revenue over the period 2007-2017, including leaked revenue to Israel and accrued interest. In comparison, the development expenditure of the Palestinian government during the same period was approximately $ 4.5 billion.
Prolonged closure and recurring military operations in Gaza have left more than half of the territory’s population living below the poverty line and cost $ 16.7 billion a year in lost GDP. This figure does not explain the huge opportunity cost of preventing the Palestinian people from using their natural gas field on the outskirts of Gaza.
The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, known as the Oslo II Agreement, gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) maritime jurisdiction over its waters up to 20 nautical miles from the coast. The AP signed a 25-year gas exploration contract with the British Gas Group in 1999 and discovered a large gas field, Gaza Marine, between 17 and 21 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza itself. year. However, despite initial discussions between the Israeli government, the PA and British Gas over the sale of gas from this field and the provision of much-needed revenue to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Palestinians have not realized no benefits.
Since the blockade of Gaza in 2007, the Israeli government has established de facto control over Gaza’s marine natural gas reserves. The contractor, British Gas, has been dealing with the Israeli government, effectively avoiding the Palestinian government in terms of exploration and development rights.
Israel has also taken control of the Meged oil and natural gas field, located in the occupied West Bank. Israel claims that the camp is west of the 1948 armistice line, but most of the reservoir has been located under Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
More recently, Israel has begun to develop new oil and gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean, just for its own benefit.
By controlling and exploiting Palestinian oil and gas resources, Israel is acting in violation of the letter and spirit of the Hague Regulation, the Fourth Geneva Convention and a body of international humanitarian and human rights law dealing with exploitation. of common resources by a power, without regard to the interests, rights and quotas of the employed population.
The international community has so far promised $ 860 million for the reconstruction of Gaza after the recent assault, but even before the latest military aggression, UNCTAD estimates it would cost a minimum of $ 838 million in year lift the population of Gaza out of poverty. Much of the oil and gas revenue would provide Palestinians with sustainable financing to invest in long-term reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic recovery. The alternative is for these common resources to be exploited individually and exclusively by Israel and become another trigger for conflict and violence.
Of course, sustainable economic recovery and a sustainable political agreement go hand in hand. The UN maintains its long-standing position that a lasting and comprehensive peace can only be achieved through a negotiated solution between two states. The UN continues to work to establish an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable Palestinian state that exists in peace and security with Israel. The economic survival of a Palestinian state will depend on the ability of Palestinians to control their own economy and have fair access to their share of oil and gas reserves in Palestine.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.