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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bank Decries Palestinian Immobility

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Palestinian economy cannot recover unless Israel dismantles a network of obstacles that has carved the West Bank into a dozen enclaves and restricted Palestinian access to more than half the territory, the World Bank said in an exceptionally harsh report.

Israel's web of physical and administrative barriers to movement goes at times beyond Israeli security needs and is aimed at boosting Jewish settlements at the expense of the Palestinian population, the bank said Wednesday.

Human rights groups have issued reports about some of the Israeli measures, such as a ban on immigration to the Palestinian territories and Palestinian drivers being banned from some roads.

In its main finding, the bank said closures have prevented a Palestinian economic recovery.

"The system has created such a high level of uncertainty and inefficiency that the normal conduct of business in the West Bank has become exceedingly difficult and investment has been stymied," said David Craig, the World Bank's director for Israel and the Palestinian territories. "Restoring sustainable Palestinian economic growth is dependent on its [the system's] dismantling."

Economists have said only such a recovery could reduce the Palestinians' dependence on foreign aid.

Israel insists the closures are driven by security concerns alone.

In its new report, the World Bank acknowledges what it says are Israel's legitimate security concerns. It says the closure system is also aimed at "protecting and enhancing the free movement of settlers and the physical and economic expansion of the settlements at the expense of the Palestinian population."

The bank estimated that access to more than 50 percent of the West Bank is restricted. Some 700 kilometers of major West Bank roads are for non-Palestinians only.

"As long as large areas of the West Bank remain inaccessible for economic purposes ... and unpredictable movement remains the norm for the vast majority of Palestinians, sustainable economic recovery will remain elusive," the bank wrote.