OQR Mission and Achievements
The Office of the Quartet Representative works to support the Palestinian people on economic development, rule of law and improved movement and access for goods and people, as they build the institutions and economy of a viable and peaceful state in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The mandate of the Quartet Representative, as set out in a letter from the UN Secretary General on 22 August 2007, was to:
- Mobilise international assistance to the Palestinians.
- Help identify and secure international support in order to address the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian State, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law.
- Develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development including private sector partnerships, especially concerning access and freedom of movement.
OQR was established to implement the mandate of the Quartet Representative as described above, in an effort to “help the Palestinians as they build the institutions and economy of a viable Palestinian State that is able to take its place as a peaceful and prosperous partner, at peace with Israel and its other neighbours.” This means that ultimately, OQR’s work, while primarily focused on economic and institutional development, is meant to contribute to the politics, which is to achieve a two state solution.
Achievements since the establishment of OQR in 2007 include:
Movement and Access
For the West Bank:
- The removal of major roadblocks on the West Bank, which led to a significant improvement in internal movement for both people and goods, and improved access to West Bank cities including Jenin, Qalqilya, Nablus and Tulkarm, Jericho and Hebron. This included, for example, the removal of the Jericho DCO checkpoint, the opening of the Al Fahas / Kvasim and the Halhul Bridge checkpoints around Hebron, the opening of the Adh-Dhahariya roadblock in 2010, allowing direct access to Hebron's commercial and social services for 30,000 residents of communities south of the city, the opening of the Shavei Shomron checkpoint for direct access from Jenin to Nablus, as well as the opening up of ‘Anabata / Einav, Sara and Beit Ibba checkpoints in the northern West Bank. These improvements also included the opening up of the Huwarra checkpoint at the southern entrance of Nablus city and the commercial back-to-back at Awarta allowing trucks through this checkpoint, thereby drastically reducing access delays; the removal of several roadblocks on secondary roads that have had a significant effect on lives and livelihoods of village people who live nearby; and the opening of an approach road to the Tulkarm crossing for trucks allowing them to bypass the city of Tulkarm.
- Opening of Jalameh Crossing for Arab-Israelis and for tourism: OQR facilitated the opening of this crossing between the northern part of the West Bank and Israel, enabling significant numbers of Arab Israelis to visit the PA and support the economic revitalisation of the northern West Bank. The vehicle crossing at Jalameh was upgraded through a grant from USAID. An estimated 1,500 Israeli cars enter through Jalameh on the weekend and the opening of the crossing has also had a significant impact on the number of visitors to the historical site of Sebastia in the northern West Bank. The GDP of the city of Jenin has risen by some 15% since the opening of this crossing. Additional checkpoints have since been opened following OQR lobbying, to allow for Arab-Israeli access to all major Palestinian cities.
- Bethlehem tourism: Tourist buses can now use all crossings to enter the city, whereas previously, access was only allowed through one crossing, causing major delays and uncertainty for tourists and tour operators. Tourist buses can now access Bethlehem through the Rachel’s Tomb, Tunnels and Mazmouriya crossings, significantly improving the speed and reliability of access.
- Access through the Jordan Valley and around Jericho was significantly eased in 2012, following OQR lobbying of the Government of Israel to reduce travel restrictions at checkpoints and roadblocks leading to the Jordan Valley, as well as unblocking the northern Jericho access route. Some 7,000 Palestinians use the crossings in the Jordan Valley daily to enter the valley for work in agriculture. Vehicle access has improved at Hamra and Tayasir checkpoints significantly improving access to markets in Nablus and Jenin from the Jordan Valley farms.
- Allenby Bridge: Following lobbying by OQR, the opening hours at the crossing were extended until midnight for goods and people, allowing Palestinian businessmen to conduct a full day’s business in Jordan. In addition, OQR assisted in brokering an agreement between the PA, Israel, Jordan, and the Government of the Netherlands which will lead to containerized goods crossing at the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan. Once installed, the container facilities and scanners on both sides of the river are expected to significantly boost Palestinian trade flows by at least 30% according to a study commissioned by OQR in 2012. OQR is working with the relevant authorities to find an interim solution that will enable container trade using portable equipment as soon as possible, which will allow containerisation of trade prior to the completion of the permanent facilities on both sides of the bridge.
- Access for food products: OQR has assisted in the development of food safety standards and a verification system of the West Bank food industry. While this development is not yet complete, these measures have already helped ensure continued access to East Jerusalem markets for meat and dairy products from the West Bank which would otherwise have been closed to off to Palestinian producers.
- Negotiating a change to the import regime of goods allowed into Gaza in 2010. The move from a “positive list” (a severely limited list of just 100 items allowed in to Gaza) to a “negative list” of prohibited items meant that thousands more types of goods are now allowed in to Gaza. This meant that the number of truckloads of goods going in to Gaza more than doubled from around 300 to over 600.
- Trade from Gaza to the West Bank and to Israel: Following lobbying by OQR (together with partners in the international community), Israel in late 2014 allowed trade of agricultural produce as well as furniture and textiles between Gaza and the West Bank for the first time since 2007. OQR then continued to lobby Israel to allow transfer of goods from Gaza to Israel, which Israel allowed in March 2015. OQR argues that this will have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy at all levels, enabling Gaza businesses to operate at increased capacity, and increase employment. OQR continues to lobby Israel to reduce excessive transfer costs and maximise reliability for transfers of produce between the Gaza and the West Bank, in line with decisions made by Israel following the 2014 Gaza conflict. OQR has also continued to push for containers to be allowed into and out of the Gaza Strip.
- Improving efficiency at Kerem Shalom: OQR is working with the parties to make the Kerem Shalom crossing more efficient and effective, and improve access for Gazan producers to foreign markets. OQR worked in close partnership with the Government of the Netherlands in its project to install a container-capable scanner at the commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza. The scanner was installed in December 2013, and speeds up the security checks for goods entering and leaving Gaza. It also played a crucial role in enabling the Israeli decision to allow the resumption of trade from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel, as mentioned above. Further infrastructure development by Israel and PA has increased capacity, and on some days recently, over 700 truckloads of goods of all types, including gas and fuel, have entered. OQR continues to advocate for increased trade from Gaza to Israel, given that the scanning technology (which meets Israel’s security requirements) is already in place.
- Change of address for West Bank residents with Gazan IDs: Following an agreement negotiated by the QR with the Israeli PM in February 2011, Israel agreed to authorise 5,000 residents of the West Bank who currently have Gazan IDs to change their address to the West Bank. The PA requested a change of address for around 4,000 Palestinians, 3,000 of which were granted.
- Construction material for Gaza: In 2011, the QR negotiated with Israel the entry of 70,000 tonnes of aggregates through the Sufa crossing for private sector and international projects in Gaza. These aggregates had previously been stuck at the Israeli side of the crossing for a number of years
Rule of Law
- Expanding PA law enforcement access and capacity: A dedicated GIS mapping tool developed by OQR led to significant changes in the operation of the Palestinian Civilian Police (PCP) in April 2015. The tool enabled the PCP to track its areas of operations, as well as restrictions on access in enforcing the rule of law. It has proved vital for Palestinian contacts with Israel, including when it comes to coordination and areas of operation. As a result of this work, Palestinian police have extended their security control in parts of the West Bank, and three new police stations have been approved around Jerusalem. This innovative project, supported by the Government of the Netherlands and the U.S. Institute of Peace, enables more effective and efficient provision of law enforcement services throughout the West Bank, and has enabled OQR and the PCP to jointly develop options to expand and facilitate PCP access in the West Bank, in addition to more efficient distribution of PCP stations and resources.
- Technical assistance to the Joint Legal Committee: OQR provides technical assistance to the GOI and the PA’s JLC so as to reduce restrictions imposed by the occupation on the rule of law sector.
- The Initiative for the Palestinian Economy: This strategic framework for investment in the Palestinian territories seeks to engage the private sector to drive economic growth and job creation across the Palestinian territories. Drafted by a team of policy advisors, external economic analysts and international domain experts, the plan was launched in 2014 as part of the efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Despite the current impasse between the sides, the IPE remains a relevant and useful framework for developing the long-term potential of eight key sectors of the Palestinian economy. OQR continues to work on the economic agenda, while giving priority to areas where accomplishments are realistic under the current conditions in order to contribute towards an environment that supports a renewal of the political process.
- Palestinian use of Area C: In 2011-2012, OQR promoted initiatives that support access to and development of Area C and, in particular, towards enabling social infrastructure development in Palestinian populated areas supporting construction and rehabilitation of schools and clinics. This was done in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministries of Health and Education, and in close partnership with the U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT) granted approval for 20 projects, which were implemented by USAID, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other partners. This marked the first time that Israeli authorities worked in coordination with the international community to ensure implementation of projects to a pre-agreed timeline.
- Wataniya telecoms license: QR secured agreement from Israel to release the necessary bandwidth for a second cellular operator for the Palestinian market. This was the largest-ever private sector investment in the Palestinian Territories to date, bringing in some $350 million in investment and creating thousands of jobs.
- Palestinian workers in Israel: In 2011-2012, QR negotiated with Israel the approval of a 30 percent increase in permits for Palestinians to work in Israel (largely in construction and agriculture).
- East Jerusalem commercial complex: OQR worked with developers and the Jerusalem Municipality to secure agreement for the implementation of a large multi-million dollar project to establish a new commercial complex in East Jerusalem. The Addar Complex was officially opened in early 2012.
- East Jerusalem Business Forum: OQR supported the organisers of the first East Jerusalem Business Forum in 2012, which attracted more than 300 businessmen from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, United Kingdom and the Palestinian Territories. This marked the first participation from potential Arab investors at an event in the city since 1967. OQR helped secure entry permits for attendees and financing for the event. Three projects were announced during the conference: (a) renovation of a hotel of around 100 rooms in Jerusalem, (b) establishment of two new housing projects in Jerusalem (with more than 200 housing units), and (c) the establishment of a new technology park in East Jerusalem. OQR is currently supporting arrangements for a second such event. The objective is to attract investments in various sectors of the East Jerusalem economy, including tourism, real estate, and information technology.
- Palestine Investment Conference: OQR secured entry visas for Arab investors for both the 2008 and 2010 conferences, and liaised between the conference organisers and the Israeli Ministry of Defence. The conferences brought together thousands of participants and potential investors. Key projects for the Palestinian economy were launched at the 2008 event, such as the development of the city of Rawabi, while the 2010 conference focused on small-to-medium sized enterprises (which account for about 90% of Palestinian businesses).