Background on Early Empowerment
(Communicated by Civil Administration Spokeswoman)
29 November 1994

On November 15, 1994, Israel transferred authority in the fields of welfare and tourism to the Palestinians. On December 1, the fields of health, direct taxes and VAT will also be transferred. The educational system was transferred to the Palestinian Authority on August 28, 1994, enabling the school year to begin on September 1, 1994, with full responsibilities in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. Thus, the process of Early Empowerment, as agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles in Oslo on September 13, 1993, and later negotiated and signed in Cairo in August 1994, will have been fully implemented.

The months since the signing of the agreement on the transfer of powers (August 29) have been used by both sides to prepare the transfer of the four remaining fields. Civil Administration officials have been supplying all the information required by the Palestinians, and there have been joint meetings and field trips. In the complex area of direct taxes and VAT, both sides have agreed that following the transfer of authority on December 1st, the Civil Administration will continue to ‘tutor’ the Palestinians for a further period of six months. In the area of health, Civil Administration officials will continue to act as consultants for a period of three months. In all fields, a Coordination Committee comprised of Civil Administration professionals will be set up to coordinate activities between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the future.

Israel has agreed to pay the November salaries for the 2,000 Palestinian Civil Administration personnel involved in these four fields. However, starting December 1, 1994, the Palestinian Authority will have full financial responsibility for hospitalization in Israel, health services, development and salaries.

WELFARE

The Welfare Office operates in two main spheres:

  1. Welfare and rehabilitation of the needy (over 42,000 people, 8,000 families).
  2. Public and charitable organizations.

The welfare system employs over 200 Palestinian workers. It is comprised of six district offices and ten sub-district branches. It also includes institutions for the blind, mentally retarded, elderly and handicapped, as well as centers for the youth rehabilitation.

All files of personal welfare cases have been transferred to the Palestinians, in an effort to provide further welfare support for these needy families.

In the future, the Israeli and Palestinian welfare systems will continue to exchange information, coordinate training programs and set up procedures for dealing with juvenile delinquency.

TOURISM

The Tourism Office deals with the million tourists and pilgrims that visit Bethlehem annually. About 400,000 tourists also travel to the Jordan Valley-Jericho area each year. The Bethlehem Tourist Bureau will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. The other tourist bureau in the territories, which is situated in Jericho, was transferred upon the implementation of the Jericho-Gaza Agreements in June 1994.

HEALTH

The Health System in Judea and Samaria, which employs 2,000 Palestinians, including 350 doctors and almost 900 nurses, has a well-developed and widespread infrastructure that includes:

  1. 8 hospitals, including one psychiatric hospital and 1,000 beds.
  2. 170 general clinics, including 147 mother and child clinics.
  3. 35 special clinics.
  4. 2 mobile clinics.
  5. 4 laboratories.
  6. 6 blood banks.

There are also two nursing schools in Nablus and Ramallah, which have two additional branches and 145 students.

The government health system is also responsible for supervising non-governmental health facilities, which include eight additional general hospitals and five maternity hospitals, with 500 beds.

The health budget is NIS 90 million per year, not including development expenditures. This regular budget includes the NIS 2.5-4 million needed each month to pay for hospitalization of local residents and treatment at out-patient clinics in Israel provided by the Civil Administration Health Insurance Program. There are tens of chronically-ill patients who receive regular treatments in Israel (i.e. dialysis, chemotherapy), and from December 2, 1994, the Palestinian Authority has taken upon itself to cover these expenses. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has agreed to continue the same inoculation program that has been followed in the past. Israel has determined the necessary inoculations for the coming year, and the Palestinian Authority will finance this program. With regard to pharmaceutical supplies, Israel is transferring to the Palestinians medical supplies which should last for three months.

Because of the complexity and size of the health system, and following a request from the Palestinian Authority, Israeli Civil Administration health officials will continue to act as advisors to the Palestinians for an additional three months following the transfer. A Coordination Committee will also be established according to the agreement.

DIRECT TAXES

The Civil Administration’s tax system is based largely on Israeli personnel — 108 Israelis, in addition to 52 Palestinians who work mostly in the area of property tax — and the Palestinians are therefore not completely familiar with the system. Israel will continue to ‘tutor’ the Palestinians for an additional period of six months following the Palestinian assumption of responsibility on December 1st.

Israel is funding a training program which it has begun for Palestinian employees in this field. Graduates of these courses will receive practical training in the existing tax offices of the Civil Administration. In order to run the tax system, the Palestinians will receive over 50,000 files, and in time will set up their own computer system.

Revenue from direct taxes in Judea and Samaria amounts to more than NIS 140 million annually, and the Palestinians will have to maintain a high level of tax collection in order to be able to finance the operation of the five fields transferred under the early empowerment agreements.

VAT

Even though early empowerment, as agreed upon in the DOP, did not include VAT, this area was included during the Cairo negotiations. The VAT office is also largely dependent upon Israeli personnel (89 Israelis and 15 Palestinians), and the Palestinians will receive tutoring and training, as in the field of direct taxes. The Palestinians will receive consulting and computer services from the six existing Israeli VAT offices, until they are able to set up their own independent system.