Israel continues to take steps to improve the quality of life of Palestinians living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), as well as in the Gaza Strip, and to encourage the development of these areas.
A note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlines the most recent development in this policy. On 20 July, a special shipment of 17 trucks of humanitarian aid crossed into the Gaza Strip. These trucks contained equipment needed for the operation of Gaza’s power station, including a unique engine that was returned after being repaired in Israel, as well as electric poles, cables and equipment needed by the Palestinian Energy Authority.
The shipment also contained materials and equipment needed for constructing a sewage purification facility in the northern Gaza Strip, including water purification materials, and water pumps. The sewage purification facility is a World Bank-funded project.
The trucks entered the Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing under the coordination of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration.
As another initiative to ease and boost Palestinian access to global markets, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan have agreed on the extension of operating hours at the Allenby Bridge border terminal with Jordan. Starting August 5, the crossing will be open from 8 a.m. until midnight for a trial period of 60 days, at which time the situation will be reevaluated. The extension of the hours of operation is expected to increase the import and export of goods, which should boost the volume of commercial activity in the West Bank and improve the Palestinian population’s quality of life.
Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is being tightened in the tax revenue system, as well. Beginning of July, Israel transferred some NIS 248,653,908 of tax revenues over to the Palestinian authorities. An additional NIS 100 million was transferred to the PA approximately 10 days ago. These funds also consisted of tax revenues that had been withheld previously by Israel, at the request of the Palestinians. Both sums have been deducted of Palestinians debts for sewage and water services by Israel.
On 14 July, Israel facilitated the transfer of NIS 50 million in cash to the Gaza Strip for the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries in the Strip.
The improvement of basic commodities level in the Gaza Strip is proved by the lack of demands for goods at the Kerem Shalom terminal on July 24.
Credit to Israel for its efforts in helping improve quality of life in the Palestinian Authority territories has been given at international level by the US Special Envoy Senator George Mitchell – who during his meeting (27 July) with President Shimon Peres, praised the positive measures to improve the quality of live of the Palestinians in the West Bank, remarking that “meaningful action” has been taken by Israel. Two weeks earlier, during Quartet Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair’s meeting (13 July) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, Mr. Blair also noted that Israel was not receiving credit for its many recent measures to ease conditions for the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, such as the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints.