Israeli land grab, wall devastating to Palestinian economy
By Harvey Morris in Jerusalem Published: May 5 2003 - Financial Times
The controversial wall that will eventually divide the West Bank from Israel threatens to damage the already shattered Palestinian economy and force some families to move eastwards, according to a report by international aid donors.
Publication of the report, based on a study managed by the World Bank, had been held up for some months and came yesterday just days after presentation of the also much-delayed "road map" setting out a series of steps toward Middle East peace.
The donors, which include the European Union, the United Nations, the US and Norway as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, say the wall pushes 6km into the West Bank in places. The report says that when the wall, which Israel prefers to call a security fence, is completed, 95,000 Palestinians and some of the richest agricultural land in the West Bank will end up on the western, "Israeli" side of the barrier.
The donors say many Palestinians have expressed concern that families cut off by the wall from the rest of the West Bank might have to migrate eastwards.
Since construction began last summer, work has been carried out along a 126km stretch of the wall, which will eventually extend to 360km. The donors quote reports that a second wall is planned in the east that would cut off Palestinian communities from the Jordan valley, in effect encircling the West Bank.
They add that the first phase of the wall, whose final course Israel has yet to reveal, will leave 10 Jewish West Bank settlements on the western side.
In some places the barrier includes trenches, access roads and electronic fences alongside the eight-metre high wall. The first phase has already taken up 11.5 sq km of land and Palestinians say as many as 83,000 fruit and olive trees have been damaged or uprooted.
Yossi Gal, Israeli foreign ministry official, commented in a letter to Nigel Roberts, local World Bank director, that the decision to build the wall reflected Israel's responsibility to protect its citizens from "the horrific wave of terrorism emanating from the West Bank".
Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, told the Palestinian parliament last week: "The construction of the so-called 'separation' wall is a dangerous continuation of the colonisation project. In addition to the confiscation of Palestinian citizens' lands and the cutting off of their sources of livelihood, the wall is an Israeli measure that is designed to annex large areas of land, to confiscate underground water, isolate our cities and villages and to encircle Jerusalem."