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Economy of the Palestinian territories


Economy of the Palestinian territories

Economy of Palestine[1][2]
Palestine Monetary Authority
Currency New Israeli Shekel (NIS) alongside:
- Egyptian pound (EGP)
- Jordanian Dinar (JOD)
Calendar Year
GDP $10 billion (2012 est.)
GDP growth
5.9% (2012)[3]
GDP per capita

$1924 (West Bank)

$876 (Gaza)[4]
GDP by sector
agriculture (5%), industry (14%), services (81%) (2008 est.)
2.7% (June 2013)[5]
Population below poverty line
25.8% (2011 est.)[6]
Labour force
1.137 million (2012)[7]
Labour force by occupation
Agriculture (12%), Industry (23%), Services (65%) (2008 est.)
Unemployment 27.5% (Q1 2013)[8]
Main industries
Cement, quarrying, textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, mother-of-pearl souvenirs, food processing
Exports $720 million (2011)[10]
Export goods
Olives, fruit, vegetables, limestone, citrus, flowers, textiles
Imports $4.2 billion (2011)[10]
Import goods
Food, consumer goods, construction materials
Public finances
$4.2 billion (June 2013)[11]
$1.3 billion (13% of GDP; 2012 est.)[12]
Revenues $2.2 billion (2012 est.)
Expenses $3.54 billion (2012)[12]

All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.

The economy of the Palestinian territories refers to the economy of the Palestinian territories, which comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.


  • Agriculture 1
  • Tourism 2
  • Handicrafts 3
  • Transportation 4
  • Communications 5
  • Stonecutting 6
  • Water supply and sanitation 7
  • Employment 8
  • Taxation 9
  • Foreign aid 10
  • History 11
    • West Bank 11.1
    • East Jerusalem 11.2
    • Gaza Strip 11.3
  • Israeli-Palestinian relations 12
    • Commerce 12.1
    • Conflict 12.2
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


Agriculture is a mainstay in the economy. The production of agricultural goods supports the population's sustenance needs and fuels Palestine's export economy.[13] According to the Council for European Palestinian Relations, the agricultural sector formally employs 13.4% of the population and informally employs 90% of the population.[13] Over the past 10 years, unemployment rates in Palestine have increased and the agricultural sector became the most impoverished sector in Palestine.

Palestinian agriculture suffers from numerous problems, blockades to exportation of produce and importation of necessary inputs, widespread confiscation of land for nature reserves as well as military and settler use, confiscation and destruction of wells, and physical barriers within the West Bank.[14] Because the root of the conflict is with land, the disputes between Israel and Palestine are well-manifested in the agriculture of Palestine.


Palestine tourism poster, 1936

In 2010, 4.6 million people visited the Palestinian territories, compared to 2.6 million in 2009. Of that number, 2.2 million were foreign tourists while 2.7 million were domestic.[15] This number of international visits is misleading, however, since most tourists come for only a few hours or as part of a day trip itinerary. In the last quarter of 2012 over 150,000 guests stayed in West Bank hotels; 40% were European and 9% were from the United States and Canada.[16] Major travel guides write recently that "the West Bank is not the easiest place in which to travel but the effort is richly rewarded."[17]

The Palestinian Authority and Israeli tourism ministries have attempted to work together on tourism in the Palestinian territories in a Joint Committee.[18] Recent cooperation to share access to foreign tourists has not proven successful in Palestine for many reasons relating to the occupation.[19] Israel controls the movement of tourists into the West Bank.[20] Foreign tourism is presently restricted to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, following the August 2013 indefinite closing of the Rafah crossing located between Egypt and the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.[21] There is essentially no tourist flow to Gaza since 2005 because of the on-going Israeli military land, air, and sea blockade.

In 2013 Palestinian Authority Tourism minister Rula Ma'ay'a stated that her government aims to encourage international visits to Palestine, but the occupation is the main factor preventing the tourism sector from becoming a major income source to Palestinians.[22] There are no visa conditions imposed on foreign nationals other than those imposed by the visa policy of Israel. Access to Jerusalem and the West Bank is controlled by the Government of Israel and access to Gaza is controlled by Hamas.Entry to the occupied Palestinian territories requires only a valid international passport but entry to Israel may be denied for Palestinians or Arabic visitors


A wide variety of handicrafts, many of which have been produced by Arabs in Palestine for hundreds of years, continue to be produced today. Palestinian handicrafts include embroidery work, pottery-making, soap-making, glass-making, weaving, and olive-wood and Mother of Pearl carvings, among others.[23][24] Some Palestinian cities in the West Bank, particularly Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus have gained renown for specializing in the production of a particular handicraft, with the sale and export of such items forming a key part of each cities' economy.




Stonecutting is a traditional source of income for the Palestinian economy. The annual average output per worker in the stone industry is higher than in any other sector. There are 650 stone production outlets in the West Bank, 138 of them in Beit Fajjar. The quarried material is cut into a rich range of pink, sand, golden, and off-white bricks and tiles known as Jerusalem stone.[25]

Water supply and sanitation


According to the Council for European Palestinian Relations, the agricultural sector formally employs 13.4% of the population and informally employs 90% of the population.[13] Over the past 10 years, unemployment rates in Palestine have increased and the agricultural sector became the most impoverished sector in Palestine. Unemployment rates peaked in 2008 when they reached 41% in Gaza.[26]


Taxation is a complex system which may involve payment to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and/or Israel in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 2005 the Palestinian Authority collected approximately $34 million per month from taxes and other charges, and Israel collected about $75 million per month in tariffs on foreign imports and value added taxes (VAT) on Israeli goods and services and on average kept about $15 million for the payment of water and power bills of Palestinians, while forwarding the other $60 million to the PA.[27] Israeli collected funds account for about two-thirds of the authority's self-generated revenue,[28] which Reuters put at $100 million in 1 December.[29] Since the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Israel has regularly withheld the taxes it owes the Palestinian Authority.[27][29][30][31]

Foreign aid

In 2008, the West Bank and Gaza economies were heavily reliant on foreign aid which stood at 1.8 billion. Approximately 30% of the GDP, or US$487 per Palestinian per year came from aid. Foreign aid provided essential services for nearly half of the Palestinian people, and allowed the Palestinian Authority to operate and pay its estimated 140,000 employees.[32]

In 2010, Arab states cut financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. According to the Palestinian Finance Ministry, the PA received $583.5 million in budget support by August 2010, of which only 22 percent came from Arab states. The remainder was from international donors, including the European Union and the United States. Salah Rafat, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, urged the Arab countries to honor their financial pledges.[33]

In April 2011, Salam Fayyad met with Western donors in Brussels and requested $5 billion in aid.[34]

As part of the US Government's attempt to create a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a $4 billion plan that would help grow the Palestinian economy by 50 percent and bring "unprecedented wealth to the region".[35] The plan was coordinated in conjunction with former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. However, the following day after Kerry announced his initiative, the Palestinian Authority rejected the deal saying it won't "make political compromises for financial benefits."[35] The Palestinian Authority's Economic Advisor, Mohammad Mustafa, said "PA's priorities are not economic, but rather a political framework for the creation of Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, that also ensures the rights of refugees and a political compromise, the Palestinian news agency added."[35]


Palestine stock exchange logo

GDP per capita in the Palestinian territories rose by 7% per year from 1968 to 1980 but slowed during the 1980s. Between 1970 and 1991 life expectancy rose from 56 to 66 years, infant mortality per 1,000 fell from 95 to 42, the percentage of households with electricity rose from 30% to 85%, the percentage of households with safe water rose from 15% to 90%, the percentage of households with a refrigerator rose from 11% to 85%, and the percentage of households with a washing machine rose from 23% in 1980 to 61% in 1991.[36]

Economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, where economic activity was governed by the Paris Economic Protocol of April 1994 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, deteriorated in the early 1990s. Real per capita GDP for the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS) declined 36.1% between 1992 and 1996 owing to the combined effect of falling aggregate incomes and robust population growth. The downturn in economic activity was due to extensive corruption in the newly governing Palestinian Authority, and to Israeli closure policies in response to security incidents in Israel, which disrupted previously established labor and commodity market relationships. The most serious effect was the emergence of chronic unemployment. Average unemployment rates in the 1980s were generally under 5%; by the mid-1990s this level had risen to over 20%. After 1997, Israel's use of comprehensive closures decreased and new policies were implemented. In October 1999, Israel permitted the opening of a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the 1995 Interim Agreement. These changes in the conduct of economic activity fueled a moderate economic recovery in 1998–99.

As a result of the Israeli blockade, 85 percent of factories were shut or operated at less than 20 percent capacity. It is estimated that Israeli businesses lost $2 million a day from the closing while Gaza lost approximately $1 million a day.[37] The World Bank estimates the nominal GDP of the territories at 4,007,000 US$ and of Israel at 161,822,000 US$. Per capita these numbers are respectively 1,036 US$ and 22,563 US$ per year.

For 30 years, Israel permitted thousands of Palestinians to enter the country each day to work in construction, agriculture and other blue-collar jobs. Until the mid-1990s, up to 150,000 people—about a fifth of the Palestinian labor force—entered Israel each day. After Palestinians unleashed a wave of suicide bombings, the idea of separation from the Palestinians took root in Israel. Israel found itself starved for labor, and gradually replaced most of the Palestinians with migrants from Thailand, Romania and elsewhere.[38][39]

In 2005, the PNA Ministry of Finance cited the Israeli West Bank barrier, whose construction began in the second half of 2002, as one reason for the depressed Palestinian economic activity.[40] Real GDP growth in the West Bank declined substantially in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and increased modestly in 2003 and 2004.[41] The World Bank attributed the modest economic growth since 2003 to "diminished levels of violence, fewer curfews, and more predictable (albeit still intense) closures, as well as adaptation by Palestinian business to the contours of a constrained West Bank economy". Under a "disengagement scenario" the Bank predicted a real growth rate of −0.2% in 2006 and −0.6% in 2007.[42]

In the wake of Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, there were shortages of bread and basic supplies due to closure of the al Mentar/Karni border-crossing into Israel. Israel's offer to open other crossings was turned down by the Hamas-run Palestinian authority.[43]

Following the January 2006 legislative elections, won by Hamas, the Quartet (apart from Russia) cut all funds to the Palestinian Authority led by prime minister Ismail Haniyah (Hamas). The Palestinian Authority had a monthly cash deficit of $60 million-$70 million after it received $50 million – $55 million a month from Israel in taxes and customs duties collected by Israeli officials at the borders. After the elections, the Palestinian stock market fell about 20 percent, and the Palestinian Authority exhausted its borrowing capacity with local banks.[44] Israel ceased transferring $55 million in tax receipts to the Palestinian Authority. These funds accounted for a third of the PA's budget and paid the wages of 160,000 Palestinian civil servants (among them 60 000 security and police officers). The United States and the European Union halted direct aid to the PA, while the US imposed a financial blockade on PA's banks, impeding some of the Arab League's funds (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Qatar) from being transferred.[45] In May 2006, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza and the West Bank demanding payment of their wages. Tension between Hamas and Fatah rose as a result of this "economic squeeze" on the PA.[46]

In 2009, the Israeli military removed its checkpoint at the entrance of Jenin in a series of reductions in security measures.[47] In September 2012 EU activists stated that the Palestinian economy "lost access to 40 percent of the West Bank, 82 percent of its groundwater and more than two-thirds of its grazing land" due to the occupation and settlement construction.[48]

The first planned Palestinian city named Rawabi is under construction north of Ramallah, with the help of funds from Qatar.[49] In 2013, commercial trade between Israel and the Palestinian territories were valued at US$20 billion annually.[50]

West Bank

In 2007, the economy in the West Bank improved gradually. Economic growth for the occupied areas reached about 4–5% and unemployment dropped about 3%. Israeli figures indicated that wages in the West Bank rose more than 20% in 2008 and trade rose about 35%. Tourism in Bethlehem increased to about twice its previous levels, and tourism increased by 50% in Jericho.[51] Life expectancy is 73.4, placing the territories 77th in the world, compared with a life expectancy of 72.5 in Jordan, and 71.8 in Turkey.[52] Car sales in 2008 were double those of 2007. The International Monetary Fund report for the West Bank forecast a 7 percent growth rate for 2009.

The Bethlehem Small Enterprise Center opened in early 2008. Funded by Germany, the center has helped to promote computer literacy and marketing skills.[51]

View of Bethlehem

In 2009, efforts continued to build Palestinian local institutions and governments from the ground up. Much of this work was done by Tony Blair and US General Keith Dayton. Some analysts saw this as a more substantial way to lay a groundwork for viable institutions and for local peace.[53] In August 2009, a state of the art web-based system for tracking goods coming in and out of the area by Palestinian customs was launched in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.[54]

In 2009, an economic "boom" began with growth reaching 8 percent, higher than in Israel or the West. However, with inflation around 9.9% that same year, real economic growth is actually negative insofar as purchasing power has decreased. Tourism to Bethlehem, which had doubled to 1 million in 2008, rose to nearly 1.5 million in 2009. New car imports increased by 44 percent. New shopping malls opened in Jenin and Nablus. As an outcome of the Palestine Investment Conference, Palestinian developers are planning to build the first modern Palestinian city, Rawabi.[55][56]

In 2010, Ramallah was described as a hub of the economic activity thanks to the improved security situation, successful battle against corruption and large consumer base.[57]

In 2011, the Palestinian Planning Minister said that GDP growth was expected to reach 9 percent, rising to 10 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2013.[34]

East Jerusalem

East Jerusalem was once the business and shopping hub of the West Bank. However since the advent of Israeli security checkpoints and the separation barrier starting over a decade ago, it has become isolated from its customer base leading to serious economic decline.[58] According to Hanna Siniora of the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce, the turning point was 1993. He states that since then East Jerusalem has become a closed city through isolation from the rest of the West Bank causing a loss of 50% of its business between 1993 and 2001.[59]

According to a 2012 report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and interviews conducted by the Forward, the decline of the economy in East Jerusalem has led to unprecedented levels of poverty, with 80% of the Palestinian population living below the poverty line. The main cause is seen as the political and physical barriers separating it from the rest of the West Bank. The ACRI report attributing the problem to “‘the cumulative effects of annexation, neglect, rights violations and the completion of the separation barrier.”[58] Another contributing factor to the economic decline is the housing situation.[58] The Israeli government has facilitated extensive construction for Israeli settler neighborhoods, but has severely restricted development and building for the Palestinian population.[58]

In 2013, commercial trade between Israel and the Palestinian territories were valued at US$20 billion annually.[50]

Gaza Strip

Gaza City

According to Hamas, Israel's closure policy, which was extended when the Hamas administration come to power in 2007, was responsible for high levels of poverty and unemployment and a significant decline of the private sector which was heavily reliant upon export markets. Israel blamed Hamas for taking actions that led to the closure policy. A large part of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance, primarily from the UN agencies.[60]

An easing of Israel's closure policy in 2010 resulted in an improvement in some economic indicators, but regular exports from the Gaza Strip were still prohibited.[60] According to the Israeli Defense Forces, the economy improved in 2011, with a drop in unemployment and an increase in GDP. New malls have opened, local industry is developing and the economic upswing has led to the construction of hotels and a rise in the import of cars.[61] Wide-scale development has been made possible by the unhindered movement of goods into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The current rate of trucks entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom is 250 trucks per day. This figure fluctuates dependent on the level of interference with goods being brought into Gaza from Egypt through tunnels. The increase in building activity has led to a shortage of construction workers. To make up for the deficit, young people are being sent to learn the trade in Turkey.[62]

Israeli-Palestinian relations


Joint economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians officials is growing. Starting in 2008, Cisco Systems began a concerted effort to jump-start the nascent Palestinian IT sector with a holistic ecosystem approach, encompassing venture capital, private equity, capacity building and direct outsourcing to Palestinian companies. The company invested $15 million toward that end and drew in other major international investors and donors, including Microsoft, HP and Google. The Palestinian IT sector has since grown from 0.8% of GDP in 2008 to 5% in 2010.[63]

Olives of Peace is a joint Israeli–Palestinian business venture to sell olive oil. Through this project, Israelis and Palestinians have carried out joint training sessions and planning.[64] The oil is sold under the brand name "Olives of Peace."[65]

In October 2009, a new project got underway promoting tourism and travel between the two areas. New business efforts and tourist attractions have been initiated in Jenin.[66] The two regions are planning a joint industrial zone which would bridge the border. Palestinians would produce locally-made handicrafts and sell them through Gilboa to other regions of the world. Another possible project is a joint language center, where Israelis and Palestinians would teach each other Arabic and Hebrew, as well as aspects of their cultural heritage.[67]

Since 2010, Israeli high-tech companies have begun to employ Palestinian engineers. To date, most of them are outsourced workers, but Mellanox, a computer hardware firm, plans to hire 15–20 Palestinian engineers as regular employees.[68]

In 2011, bilateral trade between Israel and the Palestinian-ruled areas reached $4.3 billion, with Israeli exports to the PA amounting to $3.5 billion and Palestinian exports to Israel amounting to $816 million. According to Nader Tamimi, chair of the Association of Traditional Industries in the PA, there are regular interactions between Palestinian and Israeli businessmen.[69]

At a conference hosted by the Faculty of Business and Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2012, Israeli and Palestinian trade experts met to discuss ways of promoting cross-border business interactions.[69]

In 2013, commercial trade between Israel and the Palestinian territories were valued at US$20 billion annually.[50] The continuously increasing transactions led to the creation of the joint Palestinian and Israeli initiative, the Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC). The center will specialize as an independent institution focusing on business arbitration between Israelis and Palestinians.[50][70]


See also: Agriculture in Palestine

In 2006, the unity of the Palestinian economy was threatened when Israeli ties to the West bank were severed. The following war in 2008-2009 destroyed all economic infrastructure, leaving the Palestinian economy without any remaining activity and owing $1.4 billion.[71] The Oslo Accords in 1993 aimed to prevent this, but was unable to keep the Palestinian economy from fluctuating. Currently, the Palestinian economy lives on foreign aid and customs revenue between Israel and Palestine. However, Israeli restrictions fragmented the Palestinian economy and caused and increase in unemployment.[71] By 2008, 71% of the Gaza Strip's population was unemployed.[71] The import and export prosperity in Palestine was impacted by the border restrictions and constant Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza, which also weakened the industrial and agricultural sectors.[72] In order for the Palestinian economy to be prosperous, the restrictions on Palestinian land must be removed.[14] In the West Bank, the Israeli restrictions caused the Palestinian economy to lose $3.4bn (%35 of the annual GDP), according to The Guardian and a report for World Bank.[73]

Unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank[26]
Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Percentage 12.5% 21% 32% 26% 27.5% 24.5% 23% 21.5% 26.5%

See also

Development indicators:

School enrollment, primary (%) gross: 94% in 2012

CO2 Emission (metric tons per capita: 0.6 in 2010

Poverty: 25.8% in 2011

Improved water source rural: 82% in 2012

Life expectancy at birth total years: 73 in 2012

GNI per capita (current US $): $2,810 in 2012

Population: 4,169, 509 in 2013[74]


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External links

  • Palestinian Territories Economic Development at DMOZ
  • MEED – Middle East Business intelligence since 1957
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