Tony Blair: Israel not given enough credit for West Bank improvement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom met yesterday with the Quartet's Middle East Envoy Tony Blair. The Israeli officials updated Blair on a series of measures undertaken by Israel in recent weeks in the West Bank, which were taken in order to accelerate economic development in the area and ease the daily lives of the Palestinian residents. These include the decision to expand the operating hours of the Allenby border terminal to ease the flow of Palestinian goods, and a number of economic projects being supported by the government - including the planning and development if a light industrial zone near Bethlehem, a major industrial zone in the Jenin area and an agricultural processing and export zone in Jericho. The three discussed possible further projects.
Blair expressed his appreciation for Israeli efforts and noted that Israel was receiving insufficient credit for the actions it has taken in the West Bank. The Israeli officials said that further progress could be made if there was more cooperation from the Palestinian Authority. The projects mentioned by Netanyahu and Shalom are part of a larger process of notable economic recovery taking place in the West Bank. More than 140 checkpoints have been removed in the past year, easing Palestinian freedom of movement. There was 5% economic growth in the West Bank last year, and a drop in unemployment.