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Cablegate: Usun Ambassador Rice Visits West Bank Refugee

VZCZCXRO4854
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1964/01 3031405
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301405Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6500
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JERUSALEM 001964

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE AND NEA/IPA; PRM FOR FRONT OFFICE AND
PRM/ANE; NSC FOR SHAPIRO/KUMAR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF EAID ECON KWBG KPAL IS
SUBJECT: USUN AMBASSADOR RICE VISITS WEST BANK REFUGEE
CAMP, IT COMPANY, AND JOB CREATION SITE

1. (SBU) Summary. On October 22, USUN Ambassador Susan Rice
visited UNRWA facilities in Jalazone refugee camp and visited
a Palestinian information technology company and a USAID
emergency job program site. UNRWA staff and Palestinians
interlocutors alike commented that while some improvements
have been made in the West Bank, they are limited and have
not reached the majority of people due to remaining access
restrictions. End Summary.

Visit to Jalazone Refugee Camp
------------------------------

2. (SBU) On October 22, Ambassador Susan Rice visited
Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank, where she met with
UNRWA Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd and UNRWA Director
for West Bank Operations Barbara Shenstone. In the West
Bank, Shenstone said, UNRWA provides health, education, and
relief services to roughly 770,000 refugees, representing 1/3
of the population. Of the total, 189,000 refugees live
inside 19 camps, four of which lie in Area C. Shenstone
noted that UNRWA does not control infrastructure development
in the camps and, therefore, the camps were built without
planning or oversight. She said that the West Bank refugee
camps have suffered from the absence of law and order, high
unemployment, a large youth population, and little local
economic activity. As a result, the camps tend to be
"hotspots of poverty and political rebellion," she added.
Shenstone noted that, despite its location in Area C,
Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces are permitted to
patrol in Jalazone Camp due to its proximity to Ramallah.

3. (SBU) UNRWA provides education for grades 1-9 in 97
schools across the West Bank. Shenstone reported that the
Jalazone Camp Girls' School is the last school that remains
double-shift, i.e., two schools are operating in one physical
building. This is due in part to the difficulty in obtaining
building permits in Area C from the GOI and in part to the
school's proximity to the Beit El settlement. In response to
Ambassador Rice's question regarding girls' academic
achievement, Shenstone noted that in the West Bank, 70-80
percent of children complete secondary school; of these
children, there are roughly even numbers of girls and boys.
Commissioner General AbuZayd noted that UNRWA uses host
government curricula (the PA curriculum in the West Bank)
and, since 2002, has integrated an extra-curricular Human
Rights and Tolerance Education program in all of its schools
in the region. Shenstone further pointed out that UNRWA
operates three vocational training centers in the West Bank,
one of which is dedicated for pre-service teacher training,
and one hospital in Qalqilya.

4. (SBU) In addition to its regular services, UNRWA has
provided emergency assistance since 2000 to refugees in the
West Bank, largely in the form of food assistance, job
creation, and additional health services, such as mobile
health clinics to reach isolated communities. Shenstone
noted that in the past three years, UNRWA has increased its
attention to refugee protection programs addressing problems
arising out of access and movement restrictions. While
refugees represent the most vulnerable people in the West
Bank, the refugees living near the separation barrier and in
Area C live in the poorest conditions, she said.

Improvements on the Ground Are Limited
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) When asked about recent economic trends, Shenstone
replied that there are "bubbles of improvement," particularly
around Ramallah, but nothing on a broad scale. The potential
for growth is there, she added, but the closure regime must
be lifted, particularly on imports/exports into Israel and
Jordan and the movement of goods between the northern and
southern West Bank. UNRWA Area Officer Youssef Hushiyeh
agreed that he has seen some signs of improvement, but no
fundamental change in the economy.

Exalt Technologies: Growth Potential,
Movement/Access Problems Remain
-------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In a meeting with Palestinian software development
company Exalt Technologies, CEO Tareq Maayah stressed the
importance of shifting the Palestinian economy from its
traditionalist roots to the information and communication
technology sector to take advantage of an educated work force
and proximity to foreign markets. Currently, only a small
percentage of the 2,000 yearly West Bank ICT graduates are
able to find well-paying jobs, he said. Maayeh added that

JERUSALEM 00001964 002 OF 002


the ICT sector needs foreign direct investment to jump-start
the industry, noting that the upcoming Expotech conference
and trade show included representatives from Microsoft,
Google, Cisco, and HP.

7. (SBU) Maayah highlighted difficulties, however, in access
and movement. ICT companies continue to face delays and
obstruction in importing equipment, much of which requires a
special permit from the GOI. Maayah noted that his company
is partnered with Cisco's subsidiary in Israel, but that his
staff face difficulties in traveling to and from the Israeli
partner's offices. One staff member noted that "humiliation
is constant, even with a permit. We used to travel the same
roads as the settlers; now they divide us and make us travel
crazy, long routes."

USAID Job Creation Site in Birzeit
----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Ambassador Rice visited Birzeit village north of
Ramallah, where USAID is funding a job creation program that
is providing employment to residents and renovating the old
city of Birzeit. The project aims to rehabilitate some older
homes, including one as the first guest house in the village,
and to repave the streets with Jerusalem stone.

9. (U) USUN New York cleared this cable.
RUBINSTEIN

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