Palestinians spend about a half billion US dollars every year buying products made in Israeli settlements, Palestinian Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libdeh on Sunday.This number seems very high. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2007 the PA imported some $2.3 billion of goods from Israel altogether. It seems unlikely that over 20% of their goods imported from Israel originate in the territories.
Abu Libdeh, speaking during a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce in Nablus in the northern West Bank, was explaining the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) decision to crack down on the sale of settlement products.
He told investors, business figures, and local officials that his ministry decided that 2010 would be the last year settlement products would be allowed the Palestinian market.
But, despite some reservations, the PA will continue to abide by the Paris Protocol, the 1994 agreement that dictates that there are no economic barriers between it and Israel.
It would also mean that every man, woman and child "settler" is generating over $1000 a year of product for export to the PA.
Even if the numbers are exaggerated, it shows that the Arabs are economically connected to their Jewish neighbors, and if the PA would try to replace hundreds of millions of dollars worth of imports with domestic goods or imports from Arab countries in a single year, they are setting themselves up for spectacular failure. People will not tolerate inferior goods, and such a ban will simply increase the black market, hurting the PA economy more than it helps it.
This doesn't even account for the impact that would occur if the Jewish communities in the territories would reciprocate on this boycott and stop buying all Arab goods and services.
It just proves that the disconnect between the Palestinian Arab leaders and their people is as large as it ever was. On an individual level, I am discovering, there is a lot more interaction - and respect - between Arabs and Jews in the territories than people realize (although not nearly as much as before the intifada.)