UN, World Bank officials alarmed by ‘deconstruction’ of Palestinian economy Voicing grave concern over the escalating conflict in the Middle East, two senior United Nations and World Bank officials in the region today called for the protection of civilians on both sides and urged Israel to lift the closure of the Palestinian territory, which they said had endangered the people’s livelihoods and engendered a sense of hopelessness and desperation. “We are very disturbed by the life-threatening conditions under which the Palestinian civilian population is currently living, as well as the continuous deconstruction of the Palestinian economy over the past 18 months,” said Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Nigel Roberts, the World Bank’s Director for the West Bank and Gaza, in a joint statement issued in Jerusalem. “The damage to livelihoods, infrastructure and organizational capacity runs counter to any serious pursuit of peace and security.”The two officials pointed out that half of all people in the West Bank and Gaza were surviving on less than $2 per day, and stressed that the most important cause of economic decline was the policy of closure. “The Government of Israel is urged to lift the closure as soon as possible,” the statement said, noting that it should be done within the context of the recent Security Council resolution 1402. “We urge the Government of Israel to ensure that full respect is given to humanitarian principles, and that relief workers, who are risking their lives to assist the injured, the sick and the needy, are given unimpeded freedom of mobility,” the statement added, calling on the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to halt the destruction of water pumps, electricity generators and sub-stations, roads, schools, hospitals and businesses.”The situation will be even more severe, if the actions we are witnessing in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin, Qalqilya and Nablus are sustained, or if closure is tightened further,” the statement said, adding that if this occurred it would trigger “a steep slide into more widespread poverty and hopelessness.”The officials stressed that the Palestinian Authority had been providing basic, essential services under very adverse conditions for a year and a half, and warned that if it were de-legitimized the donor community would lose its main channel of assistance to the area’s people. “This would carry enormous costs – in Palestinian suffering and in the further contraction of any hopes for peace and security,” they said.Outlining priority areas, the statement stressed the urgent need to protect civilians on both sides, to guarantee full mobility for relief workers, and to end to the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure. At the same time, donors were called on to fund humanitarian agencies working to alleviate conditions in the region and to provide the Palestinian Authority with budgetary support.