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 Palestinian Territories

Palestinian Territories

Last updated April 2017

Political relations

Bilateral relations have intensified significantly over the past few years. Core areas include political dialogue and substantive cooperation in institution building and infrastructure, especially in the water sector, as well as culture and education.

The German-Palestinian Steering Committee, which plays an important role in shaping existing bilateral cooperation, particularly in the area of economic relations, state building and development cooperation, as well as education, science and research, met for the third time on 19 March 2014 in Berlin. Cabinet ministers from both sides meet every two years in the framework of this bilateral cooperation instrument. The meeting was chaired, on the German side, by then Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier, and by Prime Minister Hamdallah on the Palestinian side. Inspired by the German-Palestinian Steering Committee, which was founded back in 2010, several other European countries have established similar cooperation models with the Palestinians.

In addition to the Federal Government, various German federal states are engaged in activities of their own in the Palestinian territories. There are four German-Palestinian city partnerships at municipal level: Bethlehem/Cologne, Beit Jala/Bergisch Gladbach, Beit Jala/Jena and Beit Sahour/Xanten. The cities of Hebron and Mannheim and Bonn and Ramallah are also working on joint projects.


Economic relations and development cooperation

In 2014, German exports to the Palestinian territories were worth 52.2 million euros and German imports from the Palestinian territories 0.9 million euros, according to figures from the Federal Statistical Office.

Development cooperation is a major element of German engagement in the Palestinian territories.

Improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population and further strengthening Palestinian institutions at the national and local level are important prerequisites for reaching a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. Only if people have the prospect of a better future can peace be achieved and a viable Palestinian state built. The focus is on swift and effective measures to stabilise economic and social conditions on the ground. German-Palestinian cooperation is also seeking to have a long-term impact, which is why Germany is helping to build infrastructure and state institutions at local and national level. Supporting civil society is also a major element of state-building efforts.

With annual commitments now running to approximately 100 million euros, official bilateral development cooperation focuses on three areas that are in line with the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan:

  • water, sanitation and waste disposal
  • sustainable economic development and employment promotion, including education and vocational training
  • establishing statehood and promoting civil society (governance)

Germany’s role in reconstruction and providing humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip is greatly acknowledged by both the Palestinian and the Israeli side, as well as by the international donor community. The additional funding pledged by Germany – totalling 108 million euros (61 million euros in 2014 and 47 million euros in 2015) – is being deployed swiftly and effectively.

In addition, Germany is assisting the Palestinian territories with transitional aid to promote development and build state infrastructure. Further activities include civilian crisis prevention, Civil Peace Service (ZFD) measures and projects conducted by churches and foundations.

The German Government is working with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the framework of a strategic partnership.

Occupied territories

The Palestinian territories (East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza) have been occupied by Israel since 1967. The German Government makes a strict distinction between the territory of the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, based on Israel’s international borders as of 5 June 1967 (Green Line). This also applies to Jerusalem.

Settlements

It is the long-standing position of the European Union and its member states not to recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders that have not been agreed upon by the parties to the conflict. The German Government also takes the view that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories represent a violation of international law, an obstacle to peace and a threat to the fundamentals of a two-state solution.

There are therefore considerable risks associated with economic and financial activities in and for the benefit of settlements. Financial transactions, investment, purchasing and procurement as well as other economic activities (including tourism and other areas of the service sector) in or for the benefit of Israeli settlements give rise to legal and economic risks due to the fact that, from the point of view of international law, Israeli settlements have been built on occupied territory that is not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel’s national territory. German companies and private individuals should also be aware of the reputational risks associated with economic and financial activities in and for the benefit of settlements. The German Government further points to potential violations of international humanitarian law and human rights conventions in connection with settlements in the occupied territories.

For reasons of consumer protection, products made in settlements are not allowed to bear the mark of origin "Israel" in the European Union.

Interpretative Note of the Commission

Preferential tariff treatment

Goods produced in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are not granted preferential treatment within the scope of the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the State of Israel, of the other part (EC-Israel Association Agreement) because they do not originate in Israel. However, there are no specific restrictions on the import of goods.

This was confirmed in a ruling of 25 February 2010 by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the context of a reference for a preliminary ruling. This case concerned goods that had been produced in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

CJEU press release on the Brita ruling (in German)

Acquisition of ownership/investments

When acquiring ownership and making investments in the occupied territories, especially in the Israeli settlements, it should be noted that any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could have repercussions. Among other things, disputes about the acquisition of land, water, mineral and other natural resources could arise. The Federal Foreign Office does not intervene in disputes of this kind.

The Federal Government supports projects and project partners in publicly funded programmes only in cases where they are located within the territory that was under Israeli jurisdiction prior to 5 June 1967. This practice is in line with EU directives on cooperation with Israel.


Cultural relations

Germany has numerous cultural intermediaries active in Palestine. The Goethe-Institut, in close cooperation with the Institut Français, runs the Franco-German Cultural Centre in Ramallah, which is an important part of local cultural life. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) regularly supports exchanges between students and researchers from numerous Palestinian universities and is currently establishing a study programme in German as a Foreign Language at Birzeit University. Private foundations and projects are engaged in cultural work as a bridge between Germans and Palestinians. A number of German universities maintain good relations with Palestinian universities, a practice which has resulted in various bi- and trilateral master’s programmes. Since the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014, research cooperation between Germany and Palestine has gained new momentum, for example, through the Palestinian-German Science Bridge (PGSB), a pilot project being jointly implemented by the Research Centre Jülich and the Palestinian Academy for Science and Technology (PALAST).

Germany supports a variety of cultural projects through its Representative Office in Ramallah. These include providing funding (through the Cultural Preservation Programme) for the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, helping cultural institutions to stage exhibitions and concerts and promoting a drama school in Ramallah.

German church-affiliated organisations operate two large German schools abroad – Schmidt’s Girls College in East Jerusalem and the Talitha Kumi Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Jala near Bethlehem – which prepare pupils for the German higher education entrance qualification (Abitur) and the Palestinian school-leaving certificate. In addition, a total of seven private and public Palestinian schools offer German instruction and German Language Certificate (DSD) examinations.

Representatives of the German Catholic and Evangelical Churches play an important role in the Holy Land – by running the two German schools abroad via their German-speaking congregations, by funding cultural projects and by supporting research through study programmes in Protestant or Catholic theology and archaeological research. The Federal Foreign Office supports art and cultural projects of German Christian organisations in Palestine through its financial assistance to the Churches’ cultural work abroad.

Sport funding has so far primarily taken the form of short-term projects, such as coaching workshops, and support for women’s sport. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the German Football Association (DFB) are engaged in efforts to professionalise and institutionalise Palestinian sport structures.

Development cooperation

The Palestinian Territories are a partner region of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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