Money for nothing and occupation for free: The 1994 Paris protocols on economic relations between Israel and the PLO

Israel/Palestine
on 14 Comments

I’m familiar with Stanley Fischer’s research before he became a central banker. I also know his books with Dornbusch and Blanchard very well. Fischer is a Rhodesian born economist who has been the governor of Israel’s central bank since 2005. Last year Fischer was declared Central Banker of the Year by Euromoney magazine. This is not surprising because Israel has almost entirely avoided the effects of the financial collapses that have occurred in Europe and the US. Indeed, most Israelis trying to find a job in Tel-Aviv or in Haifa or in Jerusalem will probably have a much easier time than most unemployed Americans.

Euromoney magazine, however, neglected to tell its readers that as the central banker for Israel Fischer has also been the central banker for people living in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority. While the five million Jews in Israel have been well served by Stanley Fischer, the period of his tenure has been a disaster for the five million Palestinians living in the Israel-Palestine economic zone.

Stanley Fischer effectively oversees the monetary union between Israel and Palestine, which is administered by the Bank of Israel alongside a virtually toothless Palestinian Monetary Authority. This monetary union was established as part of the Israel-Palestine economic zone envisaged in the 1994 Paris protocols (an annex to the Oslo agreements). During Fischer’s tenure this monetary and economic union has emerged as a crucial facilitator of the occupation. Indeed, during Fischer’s tenure the union has transformed into the principal way by which Israel finances its occupation of Palestine.

This post is not about Stanley Fischer but it is about one aspect of Israel’s disregard for its obligations to the Israel-Palestine economic zone and monetary union established in the 1994 Paris accords.  

The 1994 Paris accords formalized the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority as part of Israel’s economic zone with a single currency the Israeli Shekel. This is in line with the vision of the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for an economic union in Palestine. The Paris protocols are also, more or less, in line with standard economic thinking regarding economic zones, economic unions, and monetary unions between large industrialized economies and small agriculturally based economies.

In this agreement, the Palestinian Authority gained the ability to set and collect consumption tax, impose tariffs on imports, and fully determine the level of Palestinian income taxes. Essentially, the Palestinian authority was afforded some independence in fiscal policy with agreements regarding Israel’s obligations to transfer tax collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority: income tax on Palestinian labor, revenues from tariffs, and even consumption tax. A Palestinian-Israeli Joint Economic Committee was established to implement these parts of the agreement.

On the monetary front the Palestinian Authority gained limited independence. The Paris agreement establishes the Palestinian Monetary Authority whose purpose is basically limited  to prudential regulation of Palestinian financial institutions. Prior to the Paris protocols the Jordanian Dinar was commonly used in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The protocols  established a monetary union between Israel and Palestine based on the Israeli Shekel. All monetary instruments remained in the hands of the Central Bank of Israel. In the agreement the Palestinians cannot issue currency and, in fact, have no say whatsoever in monetary policy. The Israeli central bank determines all monetary policy for both Palestine and Israel and the protocols provide no say for Palestinians in Israeli central bank decisions. So for example if Israel wants to increase short term interest rates it can do so without regard to the economic situation of the Palestinians.

Now the Palestinian negotiators in 1994 understood monetary and economic unions. An important element of any monetary union with heterogeneous areas with differing economic characteristics is labor mobility. In the case of Palestine this mainly means the ability of Palestinian workers to work in Israel. The Paris protocols provide assurances for this and the very nature of the union that the Palestinians and Israelis agreed to means that it is reasonable to suppose that these assurances are essential to the agreement.

Palestinian labor mobility was undoubtedly on the minds of the negotiators of the Paris protocols for a number of reasons. I’ll highlight two of these here. The first has to do with standard economic thinking associated with Optimal Currency Areas theory, to which Fischer earlier in his career made some contributions. The idea is that labor mobility provides an adjustment mechanism that can counteract the negative effects associated with a monetary union (in this case Israel making all the monetary decisions). Second, because the Palestinians are compelled under the protocols to use a foreign currency, entirely controlled by the Bank of Israel, they have limited ability to generate revenue using seigniorage and so Paris protocols relies on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to collect revenue from Palestinians who work in Israel.

The monetary and economic union envisaged by the Paris protocols is inconceivable without the ability of Palestinian workers to work in Israel. Over the last decade however Israel has gradually imposed hermetic restrictions on the mobility the Palestinians living in the Israel-Palestine economic zone. Israel has effectively boycotted Palestinian labor and because of this the Palestinians have turned into simply an imprisoned population with almost no capacity for economic activity. Israel’s boycott of Palestinian labor has turned the monetary and economic union between Israel and Palestine into a situation that is worse for Palestinians than Apartheid was for black South Africans. Israel’s boycott of Palestinian labor has turned the Paris protocols into an unmitigated economic disaster for the Palestinians.

Further, because of Israel’s boycott of Palestinian labor, the Palestinian Authority has lost much of its capacity to generate the revenue needed to run an effective public service or implement any sort of economic policy. Indeed, the main activity of the Palestinian Authority is now essentially begging the EU and the US to help pay the wages of its public service. Anyone who frequents Palestinian internet forums, especially those frequented by Gazans, will be familiar with the monthly ritual associated with whether or not public service wages will be deposited into personal accounts.

The EU and the US are happy financing the Palestinian public service since without such financing the Palestinian Authority will quickly collapse. Further, because of the limitations imposed by Israel on Palestinian labor, and thus the potential for Palestinian economic activity, all the subsidies and handouts by the EU and the US to the Palestinian Authority can be reasonably understood as simply direct subsidies to Israel for the maintenance of the occupation. I am not surprised, therefore, by the Arab world’s reluctance to subsidize the Palestinian Authority. After all, each dollar given to the Authority has no capacity to generate any extra indigenous economic activity but is simply a dollar for maintaining the occupation, and a dollar that effectively goes directly into Israel’s coffers.

We are now at the point where the Palestinians need to either scrap the Paris economic agreements with Israel altogether or vigorously advocate for their implementation; in particular with regard to the ability of Palestinians to move and work freely in the Israel-Palestine economic zone. If we maintain the Paris accords, then the need for free mobility of Palestinian labor in the whole of the land of Palestine (Israel-Palestine) is as great as the need of any of the political rights that have yet to be afforded to Palestinians.

A few days ago Stanley Fischer was quoted as saying that the Palestinian bid for statehood was unlikely to have an effect on Israel’s economy because “they are a small economy relative to us, they are a small economy in the region.” Well Stanley that is the situation that has transpired under your watch in your capacity as effective governor of the Israel-Palestine monetary union. Perhaps Stanley, you should go back and read your own work on monetary unions from the 1980’s the next time you chair a board meeting of the Central Bank of Israel and you ignore half of the population affected by Israel’s economic and monetary policies.

Fisher also said that if the Palestinian request leads to violence or other negative political developments, then it “could be very important economically.” Well to my mind Israel’s willful disregard for its obligations to the Israel-Palestine economic and monetary union, its boycott of Palestinian labor, provides compelling reasons for an international boycott of Israel.

About Simone Daud

A Palestinian academic. A progressive internationalist with a wholly secular outlook. Meticulously pacifist and a militantly anti-reactionary perspective. An interest in progressive advocacy spanning gay rights, refugee rights.

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14 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    September 28, 2011, 10:26 am

    “During Fischer’s tenure this monetary and economic union has emerged as a crucial facilitator of the occupation. Indeed, during Fischer’s tenure the union has transformed into the principal way by which Israel finances its occupation of Palestine.”

    Interesting.

    Last night we watched the documentary “Inside Job” about the 2008 Wall Street/Banking economic disaster that the US and the rest of the world are still suffering from. Knew a fair amount but this documentary really put things even more in order. The roles that Geitner, Summers, Hank Paulson, Greenspan, Fuld, Martin Feldstein (had never heard of this bankster/professor), Rubin, Frederick Mishkin etc played in demanding (writing legislation) deregulation. How Hank Paulson was instrumental in deregulation and pushed hard for lifting leverage limits for investment banks. How many of these same individuals teach at universities basically preparing the next group of economic thieves, write legislation etc.

    Really worth watching INSIDE JOB . Telling the story of economic socio paths.

  2. pabelmont
    September 28, 2011, 10:48 am

    Very interesting, very important. Way over my head, economics being a black hole in my education.

    Yes, so free untrammelled travel by Palestinians to work in Israel is implied by ONE agreement but countermanded by ANOTHER (A UNILATERAL ISRAELI SELF-AGREEMENT NOT TO ALLOW PALESTINIANS TO TRAVEL TO ISRAEL).

    Another bilateral agreement not kept by Israel. The whole thing should be scrapped. The Palestinians should do all business strictly in Chinese yuan. Forget the soon-to-be-dead currencies of dollar and shekel.

    (Small story: many Palestinians lost their savings after 1948 when the local British bank, Barkley’s Bank, which held their savings denominated in Palestine Pounds properly regarded those deposits as without value because the PP had wholly devalued.)

    • Kathleen
      September 28, 2011, 10:59 am

      Interesting about Barkley Bank. This bank was mentioned in the INSIDE JOB documentary. They tried to buy Lehman Brothers but wanted insurance from the US treasury or other governmental bodies to insure their buy of Lehman. Hank Paulson refused to support this insurance. Lehman took the dive.

      I had known that there was a fat cat kingly dual between Fuld (CEO of Lehman) and Paulson but had no idea the feud ran so deep. Watched Paulson during the banking bailout hearings. It appeared he had a gun pointed at our congress folks demanding “give me the keys to the treasury” or else”

      Barkley is mentioned in that documentary which I highly recommend

    • Lydda Four Eight
      September 29, 2011, 2:02 pm

      I am not familiar with a Barkley Bank in the Middle East but I do know that Barclay Bank has a presence, could it be that you mean Barclay Bank?

  3. Kathleen
    September 28, 2011, 11:05 am

    “The Paris agreement establishes the Palestinian Monetary Authority whose purpose is basically limited to prudential regulation of Palestinian financial institutions. Prior to the Paris protocols the Jordanian Dinar was commonly used in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The protocols established a monetary union between Israel and Palestine based on the Israeli Shekel. All monetary instruments remained in the hands of the Central Bank of Israel. In the agreement the Palestinians cannot issue currency and, in fact, have no say whatsoever in monetary policy”

    “have no say whatsoever in monetary policy” They own the Palestinians. Truly an apartheid state.
    Just reread. Thanks for this. Will read a third time.

  4. seafoid
    September 28, 2011, 11:15 am

    Shir Hever wrote a very important book on this issue called Beyond repression : the Political economy of Israel’s occupation

    The occupation is effectively subsidised by the donor countries- the money ends up in Israel. Goods in the OT are far more expensive than goods in Israel- Israel insists on the back to back method of unloading trucks with goods for the West Bank onto Palestinian trucks instead of letting them through. It is faster for goods to travel from China to Ashdod than from Ashdod to Nablus.

    Don’t get me started on what Israel has done to the Palestinian export industry. Flowers from Gaza left to rot at Ashdod.

    Israel has destroyed the Palestinian economy via its closures policy. Ziobots will counter that economic growth was 8% last year but the economy hasn’t grown at all since 2000.

    Zionism is pure evil distilled.

  5. annie
    September 28, 2011, 12:42 pm

    i got a little sidetracked researching Optimal Currency Areas. interesting.

    i’ve often wondered how much israel makes off the ‘aid’ palestinians get. it all goes thru israel and of course lots of it gets spent on israeli goods because palestine doesn’t get to choose which products are allowed to enter. they also end up paying israel farmers , literally subsidising farms on land stolen from them. it’s nerve wracking.

    palestinians are imprisoned automatic customers of israeli products.

    • Walid
      September 28, 2011, 1:32 pm

      Lots of great articles by Shir Hever and the AIC on the economic shafting of the Palestinians by Israel. In another of their many such AIC reports, Nikki Tillekens describes in detail how 71% of all aid money sent to the Palestinians ends up in the Israeli economy; like Seafoid said, most of the aid money sent to the Palestinians is in reality a subsidy to Israel:

      “… One could draw the conclusion that on average 71% of aid given to the Palestinians ends up in the Israeli economy, meaning that, of the more than 12 billion dollars of foreign aid given to the Palestinians between 2000 and 2008, 8.7 billion dollars ended up in the Israeli economy. It also means that a larger share of the aid that is actually meant for the Palestinians ends up in the Israeli economy than in the Palestinian economy. This sounds very disturbing, because it demonstrates that Israel has subverted the purpose of the aid and has erected a system which steals most of the benefits of aid from the Palestinians.

      … A share of the aid given to Palestinians is used to construct buildings and infrastructure. During the past decades, Israel has put a lot of effort in destroying these buildings and infrastructures for supposed “security reasons.” The response of the donors that paid for these buildings and infrastructure is surprisingly not to demand compensation from the Israeli government. Instead, donors on the whole rehabilitate and rebuild what Israel destroys. While foreign aid is spent on such rehabilitation, this action does not lead to economic growth.[10]

      Another part of the aid is paid to Israel as tariffs on imported goods and services for the Palestinians, or used to buy goods and services for the Palestinians in Israel. This share of aid therefore flows directly into the Israeli economy and is most important for the contention of this article. ”

      Full report:
      link to alzaytouna.net

      • annie
        September 28, 2011, 2:07 pm

        71% of all aid money sent to the Palestinians ends up in the Israeli economy

        that should stop dead in the tracks any congressional efforts to quit funding palestine.

    • Walid
      September 28, 2011, 2:57 pm

      “palestinians are imprisoned automatic customers of israeli products.”

      Annie, Israel gives a totally different dimension to the term “captive market”. It’s food, fuel and water supply has to come from Israel and from no other source. You can be sure all the goods confiscated from aid ships headed for Gaza if not stolen outright by Israel, are delivered to the Palestinians that are charged for handling and transporting the goods to them. Any which way you look at it, Israel gets a piece of anything that enters or exits the occupied territories, that’s why Egypt does not permit the flow of goods through the Rafah crossing. It’s truly a “captive market” for Israel.

      • annie
        September 28, 2011, 10:12 pm

        It’s truly a “captive market”

        that would be a good title for a book about this walid. i have no doubt they are making money hand over fist from this atrocity.

    • seafoid
      September 29, 2011, 5:44 am

      Annie

      Palestine doesn’t have any functioning ports or airports (trashed by Israel) so is dependent on Israel to export its goods.

      There are no viable commercial links between the West Bank and Jordan. Israel destroyed them. The occupation destroyed the economy so the

      Palestinians are totally dependent on Israel economically.
      And Israel squeezes as much revenue as it can out of this arrangement meaning products cost more in the OT than they do in Israel.

      Maybe Simone can post another time about how the vast majority of Palestinian labourers are confined to manual labour in the Zionist economy and how the Israeli trades unions work to shaft them.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    September 28, 2011, 7:59 pm

    RE: “Fischer is a Rhodesian born economist who has been the governor of Israel’s central bank since 2005….Israel has almost entirely avoided the effects of the financial collapses that have occurred in Europe and the US.” ~ Simone Daud

    NOTE: U.S. tax-evasion probe leads to Israeli banks, By David Ferguson, Reuters, 9/16/11

    (excerpts) The U.S. pursuit of offshore tax evaders is widening to include Israel, where U.S. authorities are scrutinizing three of Israel’s largest banks over suspicions their Swiss outposts helped American clients evade taxes, people briefed on the matter said…
    …A spokesman for the Bank of Israel, the country’s central bank, said on Thursday the agency “cannot comment on questions that refer to specific banking corporations.” One person briefed on the matter said the U.S. Justice Department “tries to deal with the entity, not the government” in its crackdown on tax evasion…
    …David Garvin, a tax lawyer in Miami representing American clients of offshore banks, said, “Israel isn’t really anxious to be viewed as turning people over.”
    A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to questions.

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to rawstory.com

  7. robin
    September 29, 2011, 11:22 pm

    What a fantastic article. I’m thrilled for Mondo to be publishing Simone Daud.

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