In a report released late Thursday, the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO)’s office revealed that Palestinian poverty and unemployment have skyrocketed due to Israeli occupation and closure.

Since the Israeli government began a policy of complete closure of Palestine, and constructing a Wall separating Palestine from Israel (as well as annexing much of the Palestinian land to make it part of Israel), Palestinians dependent on jobs within Israel have become unemployed.  Palestinian farmers and business owners have also become separated from their main market in Israel.

"It’s difficult to see how the northern West Bank economy can be viable (and) separate from the Israeli economy. It is likely that unemployment and poverty will increase as there is no alternative to the markets in Israel."

Thousands of Palestinian workers lost their jobs in the northern West Bank, where the bulk of the rural population is based, after they were denied entry into Israeli markets on security grounds.  The UN report said that a third of the rural population in the West Bank had lost jobs in Israel because of closures and the separation barrier.

Palestinian borders are completely controlled by Israel, and within Palestine, Palestinians are unable to move freely due to hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints.

According to the report’s author, Francine Pickup, the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank has been hardest hit by the closure: "Jenin is a district that relies heavily on work in Israel. Prior to September 2000 42 percent of the rural working population was employed in Israel. Now it is six percent," she said.

The report noted that the main northern West Bank city of Nablus, traditionally the economic capital of the territory, had suffered particularly badly from the Israeli closures, with businesses relocating to the central city of Ramallah.  "The economic center there has died," Pickup said, also pointing out the impossibility of inter-village and inter-city commerce and trade due to Israeli military occupation of the entire area.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this week that the Israeli government will continue to annex Palestinian land and construct the Wall with an aim to absorb as many of the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements into the state of Israel as possible.