Palestinian territories In search of a path towards peace
For more than seven decades now, the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict has had a huge impact on people's lives in the region. The first Oslo accord of 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) laid the foundation for Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This was followed in 1994 by the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Despite the attempts of the international community to mediate, the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been unsuccessful so far. In the course of the Oslo process, the two sides in the conflict had defined "final status issues" such as borders, the status of Jerusalem, the distribution of water resources, and a right of return for refugees. Agreement on these issues has still not been reached.
The construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is increasingly jeopardising the territorial basis for a future Palestinian state. Divisions among Palestinians, acts of violence and a lack of confidence on both sides are further factors that contribute to a worsening situation between the representatives of the two sides.
The German government has been urging the two sides to resume their negotiations. In the view of the German government, lasting peace can only be achieved if the State of Israel and a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestinian state exist side by side in peace and security.
The Palestinian territories are home to 4.8 million people of Palestinian descent – 1.9 million of them in the Gaza Strip and 2.9 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The economic situation in the Palestinian territories reflects political developments there. As access and freedom of movement are restricted for both people and goods, opportunities for economic development are very limited.
The situation of people in the Gaza Strip is particularly difficult. Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the area has become almost entirely closed off by Israel and Egypt. There are frequent rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli attacks on targets in Gaza. Two-thirds of teenagers and young adults are unemployed, a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. The health system is on the brink of collapse. The majority of the people are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Palestinian-German development cooperation
Through its development cooperation, which is part of the German government's overall engagement, Germany wants to help achieve a peaceful solution in the Middle East. The purpose of the work of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is, firstly, to create better living conditions and comprehensive development opportunities for the people living in the Palestinian territories. In particular, support is to be provided for the people of Gaza and East Jerusalem. Secondly, the programme of development cooperation is intended to help put in place a basis for the establishment of a future Palestinian state with effective institutions.
Germany regards its efforts for stability and opportunities in the Palestinian territories, not least, as an expression of its special historical responsibility for the security of Israel.
Priority areas of cooperation
Since the early 1980s, Germany has been supporting the Palestinian territories very faithfully through development cooperation in a difficult, frequently changing environment. It relies on nearly all the instruments of development cooperation that it has – from quick-impact support in the field of health care and the reconstruction of housing that has been destroyed by fighting, all the way to the construction of large wastewater treatment plants, the development of a vocational training system, and support programmes for civil society and the promotion of non-violence.
Cooperation focuses on the following priority areas:
- Sustainable economic development, training and employment promotion
- Development of public institutions and support for civil society (Governance)
In addition, a number of wastewater treatment plants and water supply systems are still in the stages of being completed. However, there will be no new commitments in the water and wastewater sector except for projects in Gaza, where needs are particularly high.
In addition, the BMZ also supports development projects operated by faith-based agencies, municipalities, non-governmental organisations and the political foundations.
Annual government negotiations
To date, Germany has committed more than 1.2 billion euros for bilateral development cooperation with the Palestinian territories and is thus one of the biggest donors there. Palestinian-German government negotiations, which take place annually, were last held in Ramallah in November 2019. On that occasion, Germany committed 56.2 million euros for bilateral cooperation.
In addition, there are a number of projects in cooperation with UN agencies and non-governmental organisations. For example, Germany supports Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria through UNRWA.