Last-minute doubts regarding Israeli accession to OECD
By JNews Editorial, 5 May 2010
Israeli accession seen as bad timing in light of its hard-line policies in the occupied Palestinian territory
The OECD’s Council is set for a critical discussion on whether to approve Israel’s membership at a meeting tomorrow 6 May in Paris, ahead of a final decision scheduled for 10 May.
Although the technical aspects of the accession process have proceeded smoothly since the OECD first invited Israel to become a member in 2007, some discomfort has been expressed by member countries behind the scenes.
The questions raised by them and by civil society organisations have included both technical and political issues.
First, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have raised concerns regarding Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian economy.
In a reporton the economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the IMF specifically cites three issues: the blockade on Gaza, which is causing a sharp decline in Gazans’ living standards; the impediments placed by Israel to investment in the West Bank’s Area C, which represents about 60 percent of its territory; and Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian territories’ external trade.
Most OECD member states, notably the EU and EFTA blocs, have concluded free trade agreements with the Palestinians. But they cannot be implemented in practice because Israel has not recognised them.
Second, there is concern about the data included in the OECD’s assessment of the Israeli economy.
The statistics supplied by Israel to the OECD include data regarding Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory while excluding data regarding Palestinians living in the same areas.
Although this issue has been addressed on a technical level through the inclusion of a disclaimer footnote, the omission of economic data regarding Palestinians has resulted in a skewed assessment of the Israeli economy, which enjoys the fruits of illegal activitiesin the OPT while excluding Palestinians from its benefits.
Finally, the elephant in the room during OECD discussions has been the problematic political timing of Israel’s accession.
Accession will be seen by some as an undeserved reward, a signal that the international community is unfairly siding with Israel, and will certainly be presented by Israel as a victory. This will not help the US and the EU in their efforts to start proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians,
Palestinian and European civil society groups will hold a press conference tomorrow outside the OECD’s offices in Paris and submit a petition to the organisation’s Secretary General against Israeli accession.
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