Written by: Salah Haniyeh

I met a man who asked, "Do you like our current situation? We have not been working in occupied Palestine (1948 Territories) for the past 8 months. We do not have any income or jobs." His questions continued: Where are the entities that can provide us with alternatives? Didn't we spend our money in the Palestinian market? Haven't there been many projects built on our labor?

I did not have specific answers, but I had the courage not to place the responsibility on the shoulders of several parties. Otherwise, the issue would be lost, turning into a research paper languishing in arbitration, a round table discussion, or a fiery speech at international institutions. It would become theoretical discourse, tossed around like a tennis ball, shifting blame from one side to another—private sector, workers themselves—until responsibility disappears altogether.

An expert summarized the matter by clarifying the sides of the triangle: Palestinian workers in occupied Palestine (1948 Territories), who have been unemployed for eight months and raised the unemployment rate to 50%; public sector employees, who have been on half salaries for months, double the time of the workers; and private sector employees, whose situations are stable but do not impact the overall market and economy. The longer this reality persists, the worse the economic, financial, and social crises will become.

Amidst this situation, people turned to a realistic alternative: supporting and encouraging Palestinian products and those imported through Palestinian agents. This approach aims to fill a crucial gap, potentially leading to new production lines, extended working hours, and increased labor absorption, resulting in new investments across various industries. This activity is expanding and growing, but it sometimes faces challenges from producers who want to maintain market uniqueness and avoid competition. However, this competition can have a positive dimension, stimulating production development and labor absorption through expansion.

Experts propose new projects with great potential for absorbing manpower, such as renewable energy initiatives, agricultural projects, low-cost housing, and major funded endeavors in the contracting and construction sectors to stimulate employment for skilled workers. Additionally, small and micro projects, such as poultry, turkey, sheep, and calf farms, offer promising opportunities.

To avoid getting bogged down in details, our role is to stimulate debate on this crucial matter. We must hold international institutions accountable for the terminologies they have promoted for years, such as decent work, social protection, social security, the release of workers’ allowances in the Israeli market, and for the transfer of tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.  

This won't alleviate the aspirations of the workers, particularly in the short term, as they continue to seek employment and a means of sustenance. While some have transitioned to other jobs, the primary challenge remains unemployment and the threat of falling into poverty. The crux of the matter is this: Where are the short-term solutions in employment policies? Waiting longer isn't an option, and unfortunately, the majority do not prioritize this issue as it deserves. Both sides acknowledge the suffering, yet neither has found a solution.

I prefer not to simply write and take the easier route, attributing the matter solely to various parties and absolving society of its responsibility. It's essential to reflect on how the challenges faced by workers and small merchants during the first Intifada were addressed. Today, we possess strategic plans and a comprehensive vision that position us to achieve a vastly improved situation.

Perhaps agricultural and investment institutions, along with small development projects, can propose immediate solutions through smaller initiatives to address this issue promptly. Similarly, the private sector can contribute by expanding its investments to create more job opportunities and absorb workers. It's crucial that all regulations and procedures are simplified to attract investments flexibly. Construction and contracting sectors also hold promise as significant drivers of economic growth.

Official economic tools such as the Palestine Monetary Authority, Palestine Capital Market Authority, and Investment Promotion and Industrial Estate Agency must continue to play a pivotal role in driving this economic engine forward.

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