Industrial Zone in Jalama… Sacrificing Agricultural Land in exchange for promises for solving Unemployment Problem

Author: Ayat Hamdan, Mustafa Helal
Issuance date: January 1, 2010

Tony Blair had, enthusiastically, announced as he assumed chairmanship of the Quartet, an economic peace plan between the Palestinians and the “Israelis”, under the slogan of “Peace begins with the economy.” The plan combines “Israeli” and Palestinian capital, employing Palestinian work-force in joint industrial zones set up in Palestinian Territories on the borders on the Green Line.

In this context, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the notion of an “economic peace” which aims at strengthening the Palestinian economy and improves the living standards of Palestinian people in the West Bank. This will become an alternative option to a political settlement which requires Israeli withdrawal from (Jewish) settlements in the West Bank, or negotiation on the future of Jerusalem. In contrast, the Palestinian National Authority adopted a pragmatic stand regarding Netanyahu’s approach. Although the PA rejected Netanyahu’s vision and condemned it entirely, they tried to utilize the momentum which accompanied it, and the international attention that was linked to it directed towards the settlement process.. The Authority declared an economic and institutional reform plan aimed at establishing institutional structures for a Palestinian state to be declared by 2011. This plan depends upon stimulating the economy in the West Bank, reducing the level of unemployment among Palestinians, providing jobs, and promoting huge projects on the basis that work is an important entry point to liberation. In this framework, there is an ongoing talk about a project for establishing joint industrial zones in the heart of the West between the “Israelis” and Palestinians in Jalama in Jenin, an industrial zone in Bethlehem, Tarqumiya in the Hebron area, and an industrial-agricultural zone in Jericho in order to provide employment for about 50 thousand Palestinians in its early stages. Although the information available points to joint activity in both Jalama and Jericho between Palestinians and the “Israelis”, information about Tarqumiya and Bethlehem projects is still scarce.