Praise for Israel's West Bank economic steps

By Jennifer Lipman, February 7, 2011
Alistair Burt

Alistair Burt

The British government has praised Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel is to take concrete steps to advance economic growth in Palestinian areas.

The Israeli Prime Minister, along with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, revealed on Friday plans to help Gaza become more independent by developing its sanitation and water treatment plants.

The proposals also included moving forward with plans for a gas supply for the Palestinians, the revenue from which would go to the Palestinian Authority, and boosting exports from Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu said that he hoped the steps would lead to a rise in economic prosperity and living standards.

He said: “I think this is good for stability, good for prosperity and good for peace.”

But he added that he did not consider economic peace to be a substitute for political peace, and called on the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume direct peace negotiations.

Mr Blair added that he was pleased with the package of measures that had been agreed. He called the measures regarding gas supplies “an important breakthrough for the Palestinian Authority, people in Gaza and the broader region”.

Mr Blair said that the past two years had seen significant change and strong economic growth in the West Bank. He said: “This has been due, of course, to the Palestinian Authority’s actions; but also actions of the Government of Israel to facilitate them.

He added: “In respect of Gaza, though the challenge remains enormous, there has been a significant increase in goods entering Gaza and in construction work. The measures today will boost all of this significantly.”

“It is a combination of measures that improve life on the ground and a strong political negotiation that will produce peace.”

Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said the government welcomed the announcement .

He said: “We believe that a strong economy in the Occupied Territories is key to promoting peace, stability and prosperity.

Mr Burt also said it was imperative for both Israel and the Palestinians to “return to talks urgently to achieve a two state solution.”

Last updated: 10:38am, February 7 2011