UN paper warns of Palestinian economic collapse due to COVID-19

    In this photo made Tuesday, May 19, 2020, a Palestinian vendor with a mask displays his fresh fruit juice in the street as the markets remain partly closed, part of a lockdown and quarantine measures to protect residents from the coronavirus, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

    Special coordinator for Middle East peace process cautions both sides of conflict that unilateral moves bolster extremism, could trigger conflict

    The United Nations on Sunday urged immediate action to prevent Palestinian economic collapse under the burden of the coronavirus outbreak and warned both Israel and the Palestinians against taking unilateral actions, saying they are likely to set off further conflict.

    A paper prepared by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process reviewed the impact the coronavirus has had on the Palestinian Authority’s finances and looked at the potential fallout from Israel’s stated intention to annex parts of the West Bank. The report was prepared ahead of the upcoming biannual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates the delivery of international aid to the Palestinians, scheduled for June 2.

    The COVID-19 emergency “underscores the inadequacy of the frameworks governing the economic and administrative relationships between Israel and Palestine,” UNSCO said in a statement. “The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on the Palestinian people is already immense,” it noted. “The Palestinian Authority needs increased financial and development assistance to address its public health needs, provide essential services, and respond to the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.”

    Regarding Israel extending sovereignty to the West Bank, “any move by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank or any Palestinian withdrawal from bilateral agreements would dramatically shift local dynamics and most likely trigger conflict and instability in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the statement continued. UNSCO warned that, “if current trends continue, the achievements of the Palestinian Government over the last quarter century will fade, the peace and security situation will worsen, and a hardened and more extremist politics on both sides will inevitably result.

    “All sides must do their part in the coming weeks and months in order to preserve the prospect of a negotiated two-state resolution to the conflict, in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements,” said United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov in the statement.