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Cablegate: With Order Slowly Returning, Nablus Business Looks

VZCZCXRO1147
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #2401 3241328
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201328Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9723
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 002401

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR NEA/IPA; NSC FOR ABRAMS/WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL KWBG
SUBJECT: WITH ORDER SLOWLY RETURNING, NABLUS BUSINESS LOOKS
UP

1. (SBU) Summary: Improving security in Nablus is beginning
to pay off for local businesses, according to business
contacts in the city. They report that residents feel much
more comfortable walking the streets following the PA's
deployment of security forces this month. This increased
sense of security has translated into more shoppers and
longer store hours, giving the local economy a much needed
boost. Nablus contacts caution, however, that recovering the
economic ground lost over the last seven years will not come
easy. They say there has been no loosening of restrictions
on access and movement that hinder local commerce and largely
isolate the city. End Summary.

Order on the Streets = More Shoppers
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Leading Nablus businessmen and other economic
contacts tell Econoffs that the deployment of PA Security
Force personnel to the city's streets in early November has
improved the security environment, providing a boost to local
business. According to Dr. Hishan Awarti, Director of the
Nablus Center for Private Sector Development, the greater
sense of security has brought more shoppers into the streets
and put more money into the pockets of local retailers. Zahi
Khoury, head of the National Beverage Company, told EconChief
that he is hearing "only good news" from his Nablus
distributors. He said that there has been a return to "order
if not law" on the streets, with the noticeable disappearance
of armed gangs, allowing his distributors to move around
"more freely and with more confidence."

3. (SBU) Khalid Misleh of the Nablus Chamber of Commerce
reports that stores previously closed by 4:00 or 5:00 p.m.
are now staying open until 7:00. He said shop owners are
benefiting from the removal of unlicensed sidewalk vendors,
allowing people to walk more freely on main shopping streets.
The police are checking vehicle registrations and
confiscating stolen cars that were often used as taxis,
boosting the business of legitimate taxi drivers. One
prominent Nablus businessman said that "thousands" of stolen
cars disappeared from the streets nearly overnight following
the arrival of PA forces.

Access and Movement Still a Dominant Concern
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (SBU) ConGen business contacts, despite their optimistic
take on security progress, are quick to reiterate their
concerns about restrictions on movement in and out of the
city. The Nablus Center's Dr. Awarti cautions that seven
years of sharp economic decline cannot be reversed "at the
push of a button." The boost to business could be
short-lived if the checkpoints and roadblocks that are
"choking" the local economy are not lifted. Local
businessman Ziad Anabtawi told ConGenOffs that his shops are
truly profitable only when they can draw customers from
surrounding villages, which are still effectively cut off
from the city.

5. (SBU) UN OCHA local staff member Saad Abdel-Hak said
Nablus residents are shopping in neighborhoods that until
recently were too dangerous to walk through. However, he
foresees no improvement in access and movement around Nablus.
He said the UN has been informed that a northern Nablus
checkpoint (Asira ash-Shamalia) will soon be closed to
commercial truck traffic, forcing shippers to use a
checkpoint (Awarta) south of the city.
WALLES

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