NILIN, West Bank (AP) — Count the rings of gnarled olive trees on Mohammed Moussa’s land in the West Bank village of Nilin: They have been here for centuries, long before a Palestinian family’s livelihood became dependent on the whims of the Israeli occupation. From. ,Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
When Israel established an outpost near the Land of Moses a decade ago, the family turned their ancestral farm into a parking lot for Palestinian workers crossing into Israel.
But the site has been empty since October 7, when Hamas militants attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip, and Israel, fearing more attacks, barred Palestinian workers from the West Bank from entering Israel.
In the fifth month of the war, the family’s savings have been depleted, debts are mounting at the supermarket and they are selling inherited goods to put food on the table.
“I have sold my mother’s gold, my phone, my bicycle,” the uncle said. “There’s nothing else to sell.”
Israel’s campaign in Gaza has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, created an unimaginable humanitarian crisis and devastated the strip’s economy. But Israel’s almost complete termination of economic ties with the West Bank has also had a serious impact on the Palestinians there.
Economists and Palestinian officials say the region is facing a severe economic crisis that also weakens the Palestinian Authority, which administers the autonomous regions in the West Bank. Under the interim peace agreements of a generation ago, the self-rule government was intended to expand and ultimately run a future Palestinian state.
The impact of Israel’s decision is being felt deeply in Nilin. Before October, more than 10,000 Palestinian workers crossed checkpoints daily on their way to Israeli construction sites and farms. Israeli shoppers used the crossing to enter the West Bank.
According to Kav Laoved, the Israeli workers’ hotline, an estimated 200,000 Palestinians worked in Israel and Israeli settlements before the war. The jobs pay much higher salaries than those available in the West Bank.
The checkpoint gate is now closed and a nearby watchtower is manned by armed Israeli guards.
Alaa Moussa, 38, who grew up in Nilin as part of the extended Moussa family, crossed the checkpoint every day for 10 years to work at a construction site in Israel. After October 7, he looked for similar work in the West Bank but said no one was hiring. To feed her two children, she now depends on the goodwill of a nearby supermarket.
But even those shops with signs in both Arabic and Hebrew are struggling. The streets of Nilin were filled with Israelis seeking cheap prices for everything from groceries to auto repairs from nearby towns and settlements.
Ahmed Suroor, who works at his family’s supermarket, said prices rose 30% due to increased transportation and supplier costs. He said sales have dropped by 70%.
“We don’t know how much longer we can keep the doors open,” said Sauer, who has seen four neighboring stores close since October. “We’ve been here since 1996, but we’ve never seen anything like this.”
According to municipality official Nidal Khawaja, one third of the village’s 6,400 residents worked in Israel, and all lost their jobs after October 7. One fifth of the village’s university students have delayed their semesters, unable to pay tuition. The city’s commercial revenue has fallen 40%.
What is true in Nilin is true throughout the West Bank, where one-third of workers are now unemployed, up from 13% before the war, according to the World Bank. Government employees’ salaries have been cut, and intermittent closures of military posts have brought business to a halt.
Israel operates 400 checkpoints in the region, turning short supply trips into hours-long journeys, the Palestinian Economic Ministry said. When checkpoints are closed, they can also block the passage of trucks. Israel says the sanctions are a security measure.
The Palestinian economy in the West Bank shrank by more than a fifth in the last quarter of 2023, according to the Palestinian Economic Ministry. One-third of businesses in the region either closed or reduced production and one-third of jobs were lost. Daily losses reach $25 million.
“The question is not whether there is a crisis,” said Khawaja, the Nilin official. “The crisis is already here.”
The crisis has been exacerbated by the inability of the Palestinian Authority, the territory’s largest employer, to pay full salaries. Under interim peace agreements in the 1990s, Israel collects tax revenues on behalf of Palestinians, transferring them to the Palestinian Authority, which uses them partly to pay wages. Since October, Israel’s far-right Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has blocked transfers to Gaza, causing the Palestinian Authority to refuse to accept any money.
The US repeatedly urged Israel to release the funds, but to no avail.
Last week, the PA said it would transfer 60% of December salaries to employees – a delay of more than a month.
Palestinian Economy Minister Khaled al-Esseili told the Associated Press, “If the crisis in the Palestinian Authority’s finances continues, it will lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.”
Khalidi said, “If paying salaries is the essential remaining objective of the Palestinian Authority, it may well collapse, because the situation demands much more than that.”
The crisis comes as the US has doubled down on calls for a “revitalized PA” to rule over a post-war Palestinian state starting in the West Bank and Gaza.
Although Israeli officials have said workers from Gaza will never enter Israel, Israeli media reported last week that officials were considering a program to allow workers over the age of 45 from the West Bank to return to Israel. are doing.
The government has also allowed approximately 8,000 Palestinians to return to work in Israeli settlements. But the future of the labor system remains uncertain.
The shortage of Palestinian workers has also affected Israel. Israel’s Finance Ministry said in December that the economy was losing $830 million per month as a result. By December, half of the construction sites in Israel were closed.
“The industry is at a complete standstill,” Raoul Sergo, head of the Israeli Builders Association, told Israel’s parliament in December. “There is no immediate alternative. The state has made us addicted to Palestinian workers.”
In Nilin, Mohammed Moussa talked about a time – before the checkpoint, before the parking lot – when his land was not fallow.
There, his family raised chickens and pressed olives for oil. It ended when clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians at a checkpoint, resulting in clouds of tear gas falling on the family’s land.
The order to demolish the chicken coop, which Israel says it built illegally, is pending in court. The dusty grounds of the parking lot where his farm used to be are now overgrown with weeds.
“I hope the war in Gaza will end. That’s my first wish,” he said. “Then, I hope parking will come back.”
Follow AP’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Julia Frankel, The Associated Press