Written by: Amer Badran

One can readily contrast the societal issues that institutions and elites addressed two decades ago, during the second Palestinian Intifada, with the current focus on the ongoing war against the people of Gaza. The discussion initially focused on creating an independent Palestinian economy, free from reliance on the Israeli economy and politics. This independence would allow it to escape the constraints imposed by its current attachment to Israel, such as being a guaranteed market for Israeli products or a source of cheap labor. However, the conversation has shifted towards ensuring a livelihood for workers who have lost their jobs due to the complete halt in work.

Israeli policies and the interim agreements, including the Paris Protocol, have hindered the development of the Palestinian economy, particularly its industrial sector. This has resulted in a lack of industries that could provide employment for the Palestinian labor force, forcing many to seek work in the service sector or in Israel. Consequently, the future of these workers has become contingent on political circumstances and Israel's satisfaction with Palestinian political actions. This has turned employment and workers into a political tool that Israel uses to exert pressure whenever it deems necessary.

This is the situation that has unfolded since the start of the war on Gaza, and to a lesser degree, in the West Bank, which has persisted for over seven months. Considering that around 25% of the Palestinian workforce is employed in Israel, the economic and social impact of this loss of income source on Palestinian society is significant. It is impossible to draw a direct comparison between the situations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In Gaza, there is no distinction between middle class and poor individuals who have lost their sources of income. The situation has resulted in the complete collapse of societal classes, merging them into one reliant on aid, with only a few exceptions. In the West Bank, the situation remains relatively stable, with the outcome hinging on the duration or escalation of the war. However, this does not diminish the urgency of addressing the immediate and critical issue: finding alternative livelihoods for Palestinian workers who have lost their jobs in the Israeli market.

War has created a situation where people are hungry and deprived of their basic needs, leading to a society in urgent need of reconstruction. To address this, we must consider Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a framework. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, depicted as a pyramid, underscores that human requirements start with fundamental necessities like food, water, and shelter. It then progresses towards health, security, and eventually, higher needs such as esteem and self-actualization. The foundation of the pyramid is physiological needs. Given the war's impact on leveling societal classes, it's impractical to assess needs based on class. Instead, we should concentrate on revitalizing specific sectors to rebuild the social system and prevent future collapses.

The primary sectors requiring attention include housing and livelihoods, with a crucial focus on the health sector, particularly the vaccination system for children and newborns. Efforts should prioritize survival and physical safety during the war. Afterward, we can address the myriad daily challenges that strain our economic and social systems, hindering our development and that of our society. This approach aligns with global practices aimed at fostering sound development.

In Gaza and for long-term planning in the West Bank, there is a need to reconsider many of the economic and financial policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). This includes gradually reducing dependence on the Israeli economy, even within the minimal acceptable limits. One approach could involve deliberately reallocating tax funds, deducting a portion to create government employment projects that can accommodate unemployed workers. Additionally, national capital could be directed towards investing in industrial zones, with incentives such as tax breaks or convincing, feasible investment laws for the long term.

Restrictions on imports could also be considered, especially since there are periodic challenges in recovering clearance funds. By limiting imports, local industries for these goods could be developed, enriching the local market and providing employment opportunities. The PA, in collaboration with municipalities, could initiate meaningful solidarity programs. It could also consider reallocating budgetary allocations from non-essential sectors to agricultural investment programs, which could help absorb some of the unemployed. Cooperation with labor unions to devise small-scale development loans for individual projects is another viable option. While immediate miracles may not be feasible due to limited financial resources, the PA can take steps now to reduce dependency on the Israeli market in the future. The current war has limited resources, but responsible authorities must manage them effectively if there is a genuine intention to address the situation.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.