JERUSALEM - Leading charity Oxfam is urging the European Union to provide funding to Palestinian development projects in the West Bank, even without the necessary Israeli approvals for the endeavours.
A report on Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley released on Thursday says "donors should move ahead and support development projects in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere in Area C," in which Israel has control over Palestinian zoning, "even if they have not been explicitly approved by the Israeli Civil Administration."
The Civil Administration is the military body that governs areas of the West Bank under Israeli control.
Oxfam said this principle should not apply if the "Israeli refusal is based on genuine security concerns that are legitimate under international law," and stressed that "donors should ensure that this is supported by collective diplomatic action at the highest level."
The European Union is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority but while it is a major actor in the Middle East, its aid is outweighed by US economic and military support for Israel.
According to the report, "more than 90 percent of the Jordan Valley is classified as Area C, and "only six per cent of the land in the Jordan Valley is currently available for Palestinian use and development."
The Civil Administration has enabled "less than one percent of Area C" for Palestinian development, and "Israeli restrictions on Palestinians use of land, water, and on building in the valley are keeping them poor while helping nearby Israeli settlements thrive."
According to Oxfam, there are 9,500 Israeli settlers and 66,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
"By one estimate, the Palestinian economy could gain an additional $1 billion a year in agricultural revenue if the restrictions on Palestinian use of land, water, and mobility in the Jordan Valley were removed," the report states.
"Settlements and related Israeli policies, such as systematic demolitions and restrictions on land and water use, are creating a wretched reality for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley," said Oxfam international executive director Jeremy Hobbs.
"The government of Israel has an obligation to keep all people safe, but such excessive restrictions on Palestinians inside the West Bank would not be necessary if Israelis were not settling there," he said in a statement.
"These discriminatory policies and practices have pushed more Palestinians into poverty and are destroying the prospects for two states living side by side in security and peace."
Palestinian labour minister Ahmed Majdalani said on Sunday that the West Bank authority faced its worst financial crisis since it was founded in 1994.