Life in the West Bank post October 7: Al Mayadeen Exclusive

10 Mar 2024

Source: Al Mayadeen English

A Palestinian man pushing his produce carriage in the Gaza Envelope (Al Mayadeen English/ Executed by: Hady Dbouq)

By Tala Alayli

A report on the occupation’s measures and Palestinians’ economic frustration in the West Bank as the aftermath of October 7 ripples, reflecting the ramifications on Palestinian and settler societies, and anticipating the Palestinian uproar.

The ramifications of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, and the gruesome Israeli genocide that unfolded in Gaza, have, very expectedly, seeped into the occupied West Bank. 

While the West Bank has not seen much stability for decades since illegal settlers occupied Palestine, the Israeli offensive in Gaza has further shaken the situation. As “Israel” carries out military raids, attacks, mass detention campaigns, and robberies, among countless other crimes, tensions escalate, and many expect the situation will come to a head with the holy month of Ramadan. Everything hangs on whether “Israel” decides to further its record, and if the brave people of Palestine rise, as they always have.

Consequently, the economic situation of the West Bank will be discussed in this report, with testimonies from residents of different West Bank areas discussing their experiences in post-October 7 Palestine, amid a destabilized and insecure environment that was further stricken with the rippling effect of the onslaught happening just kilometers away. 

The report will highlight the differences experienced by Palestinian nationals and illegal settlers, how the latter are worsening the conditions for Palestinians, and whether an explosion could materialize by Ramadan. 


The report is based on a set of interviews with a sample of Palestinian civilians residing in different towns of the West Bank. The interviewees were of different ages and genders and came from different backgrounds and professions. 

The economic reality of the West Bank and ‘Israel’

The economic nature of the West Bank has always been fragile. It was developed, not enough to tangibly nourish and prosper Palestine, but just enough to achieve survival. It is easily destabilized by the constant uprisings, confrontations, or any event that triggers the further oppression of Palestinians. Despite the constant flow of funds from the international community allocated to the Palestinian Authority, alongside funds procured from taxes [clearance funds], the economy has not been allowed to flourish, a strategic goal the occupation has ensured. 

“Israel” has taken advantage of the events of October 7 and the Palestinian Resistance’s operation to intensify aggression against Palestinians in the West Bank. As a result, mass detentions of Palestinians were a constant, consequently obstructing their livelihood, regardless of its nature. 

Zainab Hamarsheh, a journalist based in occupied al-Quds, highlighted two factors that govern the Palestinian economy: Internal Palestinian employees who work with the Palestinian Authority, and laborers in occupied Palestinian territories. 

After October 7, “Israel” started cutting down on Palestinian clearance revenues, the major source of budgetary revenue for the PA, rendering the PA unable to pay employees’ dues. 

One significant constant throughout the interviews was the closing down of military checkpoints between West Bank cities. This disallowed the entrance of the Palestinian workforce that moved from one city to another. Palestinian laborers have also been laid off en masse if their jobs were located in cities outside their place of residence. 

With the obstruction of the forced migration segues, Palestinians have no way into occupied territories in the West Bank, and thus cannot actively work within their professions. As a result, they have turned to more domestic jobs to secure a living. Their earnings are much less than pre-October 7 but cover basic expenses. Many workers resorted to setting up produce stands to make a living. One interviewee, who preferred to maintain their anonymity, gave an example from their own household. As a result of the blockades at checkpoints, their father, the main provider of the family, was laid off, putting a strain on the family’s finances. This is the case of countless more households who have had to adapt to the imposed reality as a result of the violent economic suffocation the Ramadan has enforced. 

Local businesses have also been profoundly affected.

Before the war, the Palestinian Authority accrued massive amounts of debts that reduced funds going to local businesses. Following October 7, this debt was magnified as “Israel” seized Palestinian funds from taxes and international aid.

As chunks of the consumer base are made up of nationals that move between cities, their daily operations have been massively hit, forcing an abundance of businesses to shut down.

Manar, a journalist from Nablus, said the West Bank’s main city lost 90% of its people who used to visit regularly for different purposes. This affected the operations of businesses within different industries, such as food and beverage, transportation, trade, and more. She gave the example of the vibrant surroundings of Nablus’ main university, Al-Najah National University, which has two campuses surrounded by cafes, restaurants, bookstores, and more hang-out and study spots to host the students in the area.

However, students could no longer attend campus because of the blockades. Instead of jeopardizing their education, the university turned to online schooling. Businesses around the university were forced to stop working indefinitely or completely shut down because the situation was unsustainable. Manar explained that one such case was her friend’s business. After the war, her friend had to close down her beauty and skincare clinic because of the diminished and almost nonexistent customer base.

Manar called it a “pause in life”. 

However, as Ramadan nears, one source said it would invoke a surge in spending, which could somewhat breathe life into the economy.

The Israeli settler community has not been exempt from its occupation government’s policies either. “Israel” has long paraded its entrepreneurial projects, but start-ups and companies that have just entered the market cannot operate anymore, for two reasons: 

1- The massive drafting of Israeli settlers to serve with the IOF in Gaza. 

2- Massive governmental debt that can no longer support business build-ups. 

In the occupied North, as the front with the Lebanese Islamic Resistance is fueled by the continuous aggression on Gaza, patterns of mass evacuations from settlements were observed. While settlers fled “Israel”, left northern settlements, or were enlisted with the IOF, businesses experienced massive hits, reflected in a shrinking economy and the collapse of the private sector. 

About 260,000 Israelis applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

42,500 of these applicants are currently on unpaid leave, as the private Israeli sector continues to fire staffers due to the economic crisis, resulting from the Israeli government’s aggression on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military has also been requesting the drafting of settlers en masse as they drag the war on. A critical shortage in manpower can be clearly observed among the ranks of the IOF. In March, the military requested 14,500 additional soldiers and officers to be drafted to Gaza. 

This encompasses a significant chunk of the Israeli workforce. Their businesses have run to the ground, their jobs are out of order, and investors have pulled out

The occupation government, furthermore, drags the war on and piles up more debt that should have been realistically allocated for businesses and toward the financial recovery of Israelis. The drafting of 300,000 reservists impacted several crucial economic sectors, including the tech industry, commerce, and tourism, among others. 

“Israel” is expected to conduct a near-record bond issuance this year. While a significant portion of this issuance will likely occur in the shekel market, foreign borrowing is anticipated to surpass $10 billion.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that “Israel” sold its first international bonds in the stock market to increase funds for its genocidal campaign in Gaza.

Post-October 7 financial adjustments 

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As the economy drowns in the aftermath of the war, salaries have also drastically shifted. Zainab and Manar both gave statistics on the reality of wages for Palestinian laborers working with and under the Palestinian Authority. In 2021, while the West Bank suffered severe economic blows, workers were getting almost 80-85% of their salaries. After October 7, the percentage dropped to 60-65%, with workers receiving their salaries every 40 days to every two months. 

Ziad Al-Hamouri, the director of the Social and Economic Rights Center in occupied al-Quds confirmed this reality and added that up to 170,000 Palestinian workers have been hit by these measures. 

The Palestinian Authority also cannot realistically implement a national plan that guarantees the financial security of Palestinians because “Israel” has been confiscating its tax funds that are allocated by international governments. The occupation initially collects the clearance funds and then directs them to the PA. This is masked as a tactic that “Israel” alleges is meant to prevent Gaza from receiving funds, but in reality, it is a mechanism that ensures the occupation’s domination over Palestinian public finances. 

The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation reported that the cabinet agreed to transfer these funds to the Palestinian Authority via a third country, namely Norway, despite the exclusive opposition of Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Additionally, the Israeli cabinet discussed deducting the salaries of employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, under the pretext of the war on the sector, from the clearance funds.

Manar shared the story of a former Palestinian school teacher who expressed how he could not spare one shekel (0.28 cents) as allowance for his son’s transportation to school. 

It is also worth noting that when workers were laid off en masse, they were also paid their dues en masse. This means their salaries were not forwarded every month, obstructing monthly income that regulates expenditure based on needs and with the emergence of new crises [i.e. sudden arrests, murder, displacement, etc.]. In turn, financial regulation to adapt to new circumstances is rendered almost impossible.

An interviewee traced this to “Israel’s” recognition of its power over the Palestinian economy and its enforcement of hard and soft war tactics that establish a severely repressed economic reality. It cannot be resolved by granting work permits to Palestinians unless they are completely independent of the Resistance [this includes political and moral support]. The interviewee noted this as a means for the occupation to distance the Palestinian community from the Resistance and occupy it with basic survival needs. 

“Israel”, on the other hand, has been trying to maintain a certain stability when it comes to settler welfare. Through mass imports from Turkey, the occupation attempted to revitalize its economy. However, as it relies highly on imports that have been jeopardized by the Yemeni Resistance’s defensive action in the Red Sea, it has taken a significant plunge affecting settler wages. 

According to Ziad, almost 300,000 Israelis have left their settlements and are staying in government-funded accommodation, which strains the Israeli economy further. Government grants that are paid forward from National Insurance funds, with a record high number of unemployment, and colossal debt, cannot, and realistically, “Israel” would not prioritize consistent aid to settlers. This also comes as “Israel’s” monetary policy is solely concerned with additional military funding, rather than ensuring settlers’ sustenance. 

Despite “Israel’s” tax take being slightly below the OECD average, Netanyahu’s economic budget includes only modest tax increases. Policymakers are concerned that raising corporate taxes could prompt the tech sector to relocate, while harsher taxes on households are depressing consumption.

Budget cuts could generate uneven repercussions, the report notes, adding that some groups risk being affected more than others. Ultra-Orthodox households, on the other hand, face minimal financial impact, mainly due to heavy reliance on welfare handouts and exemption from military service. However, this is prone to change as the most recent legislation ordered the conscription of the Haredim into the military, sparking a tense debate. 

While the public sector lays off its reserves and sells bonds to sustain, and as, reportedly, 60% of the high-tech industry is rendered completely dysfunctional, being forced to lay off a significant chunk of employees that bankroll the economy and boost household consumption, individual and household financial stability is speculated to have crashed. 

On Indigenous Agriculture 

Most of the agricultural activity takes place in the West Bank and in a substantial part of the Gaza Strip. Restrictions in Gaza, imposed by the Israeli occupation, have stripped Palestinians of almost 35% of their agricultural land, thus impacting produce and profits. This has not changed, except that due to the mass bombing of Gazan territories, agricultural lands are not infertile. 

Gaza’s Beit Hanoun was surrounded by agricultural land used for produce, but satellite images show that those have been obliterated, making them a significant part of the 39% of agricultural lands in North Gaza that “Israel” has destroyed. 

In the occupied West Bank, settlers have been fencing off open areas in Area C, which falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Israeli occupation government, according to the Oslo agreement.

It is worth noting that Area C comprises the largest territory in the West Bank, and contains grazing and agricultural lands, which have been the focus of settlers who seek to push Palestinians from their land under the protection of Israeli occupation forces.

At this moment, due to the blockage of military checkpoints, if farmers were let through to sell their goods, the process would take at least 6 hours. That is a quarter of a day spent on military checkpoints, which discourages sellers, not only because of the duration, but also because of the abuse they experience en route by the IOF, and the fragile nature of the goods themselves that gets spoiled fast. 

Palestinian produce also competes with Israeli produce that has infiltrated the West Bank market and is significantly cheaper because of governmental subsidies. In the absence of Palestinian Authority subsidies on Palestinian goods, the competition gets subsequently harder, with “Israel” mobilizing to monopolize the industry. This also discourages Palestinian farmers from tending to their lands and their growth, because profits are almost negligible, and produce cannot develop in an underdeveloped sector. 

However, Palestinian farmers that do grow produce see their goods being steered from the West Bank to “Israel”.

To clarify, although “Israel” grows its own produce and manufactures its own products, its dependence on imports is higher. With all the restrictions and the challenges facing imports, “Israel” has regularly purchased Palestinian goods for higher prices than what would be charged for Palestinian locals. These goods are subsidized and sold for cheap, which generates a loop of profit from this sector. The only way this mechanism could be halted is if the Palestinian Authority developed Palestinian agriculture and subsidized Palestinian goods. However, this is far-fetched, because of the conditions in the West Bank. 

The economic reality of Palestinian agriculture does not mean Israeli agriculture has not been hit either. In fact, “Israel” lost farmland in the occupied North because of the aggression on Lebanon and the Resistance’s retaliation. Settlers also abandoned the North, leaving arable farmland untended, and diminishing farming, grazing, and the growth of goods. 

In January, the Israeli website Ynet reported that “farmers in the North complain of the difficulties to reach the farmland alongside the border area, with there being losses on two fronts: the unharvested fruits and the damages done to the next harvest season.”

It also noted that no one has thus far contacted the northern farmers regarding any compensation scheme as their crops rot on the ground.

Yaron Belhassan, CEO of the Fruit Growers Organization in “Israel”, told Ynet that extensive damages were done to the functional continuity of farming on the northern border, as the farmers cannot tend to their farmland and take care of their crops as part of the necessary preparations for the 2024 season.

According to Belhassan, “There are talks about severe damages, and the farmers are demanding the laying out of a plan of action to receive full compensation for the damages they incurred, as had happened during the second Lebanon war.”

“If [the compensations are not handed out], entire facilities will collapse,” he warned.

Israeli farmland located in the Gaza Envelope has been severely struck, as farmers and laborers have fled and left the usurped lands. Turkey and Jordan have aided the occupation in this regard, but “Israel” is still devising plans to draw in Indian laborers, one source said. 

What Ramadan brings 

“I can barely remember celebrating the holy month of Ramadan without confrontations in the West Bank,” Manar said. 

As Ramadan nears, the Israeli occupation authorities have explicitly expressed concern regarding a Palestinian uprising with all the suffocation their community has endured for five months. Israeli war cabinet members and fascists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have not fallen short of extreme regarding policies in the West Bank, as Ben-Gvir suggested the prohibition of Palestinian Muslims from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest site in Palestine, during Ramadan.

Such restrictions have always backfired against the occupation. Palestinians flood the streets to pray even when prohibited from Al-Aqsa, and even when Israeli authorities patrol the vicinity and carry out violent assaults against them. 

Manar said she would not be surprised if Ramadan saw “bloodshed” in the West Bank as a result of continuous, vigorous restrictions that only expedite Palestinian frustration. 

As “Israel” fears a third Intifada, Zainab shared, it has been relentless in trying to repress the situation in the West Bank. This includes constant raids in cities, mass detention campaigns, assassinations by drones, domicide (a form of collective punishment), and the erection of military checkpoints.

Other sources tied the symbolism of Ramadan to occupied al-Quds. If any clashes were to happen, they would be in response to “Israel’s” policies there. 

Everything is intentional

While the situation remains unstable and obscure, one thing is certain: The occupation has consistently tried to break down the Palestinian community, but it survives. The West Bank’s economic and civilian frustration was not born from a vacuum, they were deliberate. What we see is calculated and strategized. 

However, what “Israel” neglected, in its pursuit of war, is that the lands it has stolen, the people it has murdered, and everything it destroyed, are the infrastructure it needs to thrive. In Gaza, the West Bank, and occupied territories, it has brought nothing but destruction. 

What happens next is only a response to its oppressive, extremist, and racist economic and social strategies. What we are and have been seeing is a mobilization of the people against the occupation. Whether this materializes by Ramadan or later is not the consideration at hand, but rather the inevitability of the uproar. 

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