U.N. Special Representative to the Middle East Terje Larsen has issued a report showing the devastating impact of Israel's closures on the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Larsen says that the measures have brought great suffering upon Palestinians, while at the same failing in their aim to bolster Israel's security.
The United Nations says that the Palestinian uprising that began nearly one-year ago has been characterized by an unprecedented level of confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians.
In reaction to the violence, Israel has imposed tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the West Bank.
A report issued by the office of Terje Larsen, the U.N. Special Coordinator to the Palestinian territories, says the monetary loss to these areas in the past 12-months may be as high as $2.5 billion.
Addressing a news conference in Jerusalem, Mr. Larsen said the results of an investigation conducted by his office shows that action must be taken to reconcile Israel's desire to improve its security, and alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.
"Under the current closure, it is easy to document that there is massive suffering among innocent people," he said. "And what I am calling for is a dialogue between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the relevant part of the international community to ease this suffering. But I also said, and I will repeat it, taking into account the security of the Israeli people."
Mr. Larsen says that before the outbreak of violence, the Palestinian economy had been showing signs of sustained recovery.
But those gains had almost been wiped out by the effect of Israel's blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Palestinian unemployment soaring to nearly 27 percent this year.
Mr. Larsen says it is in Israel's interests to ensure that the Palestinian Authority does not collapse. "If [it]so happened, I would say that there would be a high degree of chance that we would pretty rapidly move into a situation of anarchy and chaos in the West Bank and Gaza, which would be counter-productive to the security in West Bank and Gaza but also for the security in Israel," he said.
Mr. Larsen says that the closures are only serving to intensify Palestinian anger, which is resulting in more violence, rather than improving security for Israelis.
He strongly advocated Israel lifting its blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and for Palestinian workers to return to their old jobs inside Israel.
But, Mr. Larsen emphasized that even with political progress it would take great effort and a long period of time to restore the Palestinian economy to what he called its "earlier position of promise."