West Bank and Gaza
The Palestinian economy is small and relatively open. While 99 percent of firms in the West Bank and Gaza are family owned small- and medium-sized enterprises employing less than 20 people, large holding companies (only 1 percent) dominate certain sectors. Palestinian businesses have a reputation for professionalism and quality products. The private sector is mostly firms with moderate productivity, low investment, and limited competition, the majority of which are operating in retail and wholesale trade activities. Due to the small size of the local market (about 5 million consumers with relatively low purchasing power), access to foreign markets through trade is essential for private sector growth. Enterprises are highly dependent on Israel for either inputs or as a market, and 90 percent of Palestinian exports are sold to Israel. Preliminary 2020 export statistics obtained from the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) show total exports of USD 1.094 billion, representing a 2.4 percent increase over 2019 (USD 1.068 billion).
Large Palestinian enterprises are connected internationally, with partnerships extending to Asia, Europe, the Gulf, and the Americas. However, Israeli government restrictions on the movement and access of goods and people between the West Bank, Gaza, and external markets continue to limit Palestinian private sector growth and reflect Israeli security concerns. Roughly 40 percent of the West Bank falls under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), referred to as Area A and Area B following the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1994 economic agreement commonly known as the Paris Protocol. The Israeli government maintains full administrative and security control of Area C, which comprises roughly 60 percent of the West Bank. A 2017 USAID study found that high transaction costs stemming from limitations on movement, access, and trade are the most immediate impediment to Palestinian economic growth, followed by energy and water insecurity.
The Palestinian labor force is well educated, boasting a 98 percent literacy rate and the West Bank and Gaza enjoy high technology penetration, despite poor internet service. Nevertheless, already high unemployment persisted and worsened in 2020. According to the latest figures available from the PCBS, the combined West Bank and Gaza unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 23.4 percent. While the unemployment rates in both the West Bank and Gaza have remained the same in the last few years, the West Bank’s rate of 14.9 percent pales by comparison with the Gaza’s 43.1 percent, according to the PCBS. The rates were high for youth aged 20-24 years old (40.3 percent), and for the educated (28 percent). The public sector continues to be the largest Palestinian employer, providing 21.3 percent of all jobs.
In 2020, the economy contracted by 11-12 percent, according to World Bank preliminary estimates, due to COVID-19 response measures taken by the PA to combat the pandemic which affected all economic sectors as well as decisions taken for political reasons. The most prominent example of this was the PA’s decision to reject clearance revenues (taxes on imports collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf and transferred to the PA on a monthly basis) for six months (May-November 2020). For 2021, the World Bank estimates a modest economic recovery of 2.5 percent. With population growth at roughly 3 percent per year, real per capita GDP is projected to decline as unemployment and poverty rates rise. Ongoing political, economic, and fiscal uncertainty has generally deterred large-scale internal and foreign direct investment. Foreign direct investment, representing 1 percent of GDP, is also very low in comparison with fast-growing economies.
According to the World Bank, in 2020 investment rates remained low, with the majority channeled into non-traded activities that generate low productivity employment and returns that are less affected by political risk, such as internal trade and real estate development. Private investment levels, averaging about 15-16 percent of GDP in recent years, have been low compared with rates of over 25 percent in fast-growing middle-income economies. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors’ contribution to GDP is also in decline. Manufacturing fell from 19 percent of GDP in 1994 to 12 percent in 2019 and agriculture fell from 12 percent of GDP in 1994 to 7 percent in 2019. To reverse these trends, the Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency (PIPA) included both sectors in its National Export Strategy. Target sectors include:
Stone and marble
Agriculture, including olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs
Food and beverage, including agro-processed meat
Textiles and garments
Manufacturing, including furniture and pharmaceuticals
Information and communication technology (ICT)
In 2020, the PA ran a total fiscal deficit of nearly USD 1.6 billion, of which around USD $487 million ($356 million in recurrent budget support and $131 million in development financing) was covered by direct budget support from foreign donors. The PA covered its financing gap by taking an additional $748 million in new bank loans and accumulating more arrears to the private sector suppliers of goods and services (exceeding $1 billion), and the PA civil servants’ pension fund. The PA remains heavily dependent on Israeli transfers of PA clearance revenues which comprised 68 percent of all PA revenues in 2020. The PA’s continued practice of making prisoner and “martyr” payments – paying families of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails and Palestinians killed or seriously injured due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including terrorists – jeopardized these transfers. Israel imposes penalties to deter such payments, a position shared by the United States and applied to U.S. assistance through the Taylor Force Act and Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA).
Any short-term growth in the Palestinian economy is connected to ongoing challenges with COVID-19 including delayed efforts to vaccinate the population. Future economic growth, however, depends on a number of factors: further easing of Israeli movement and access restrictions, balanced with Israeli security concerns; expanded external trade and private sector growth; PA approval and implementation of long-pending commercial legislative reforms; political stability; increased water and energy supply to the productive sectors at lower cost; and PA fiscal stability. Economic sectors that are not dependent on traditional infrastructure and freedom of movement, such as information and communications technologies, are able to grow somewhat independently of these factors and therefore have enjoyed greater success in the Palestinian economy during the past decade. The 2018 introduction of Third Generation (3G) communications technology into the West Bank stimulated further development of businesses that benefitted from real-time GPS/location data.
The Palestinian economy is expected to slowly recover after a sharp decline in 2020, and investment opportunities continue to exist in information technology, stone and marble, real estate development, light manufacturing, agriculture, and agro-industry. Coronavirus pandemic response measures have had a significant negative impact on both the stone and marble industry and the tourism sector, previously considered growth areas. While the economy overall should start recovering after Coronavirus response measures are totally lifted, the tourism sector is projected to continue to be adversely impacted by the loss of inbound tourism throughout 2021, negatively affecting 37,800 tourism industry workers.
This report focuses on investment issues related to areas under the administrative jurisdiction of the PA, except where explicitly stated. Where applicable, this report addresses issues related to investment in Gaza, although the de facto Hamas-led government’s implementation of PA legislation and regulations may differ significantly from the West Bank’s. For issues where PA law is not applicable, Gazan courts typically refer to Israeli and Egyptian law; however, Hamas does not consistently apply PA, Egyptian, or Israeli law. These inconsistencies in the legal environment, among a number of other, more challenging factors, are strong deterrents to private investment in Gaza.
Due to evolving circumstances, potential investors are encouraged to contact the PA Ministry of National Economy ( ), Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency ( ), the Palestine Trade Center ( ), and the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce ( ), as well as the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem ( ) and the U.S. Commercial Service ( ) for the latest information.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The West Bank and Gaza received an overall ranking of 117 out of 190 in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report, a slight decrease from 116 out of 190 in 2019. (World Bank rankings range from 1 to 190, with a lower rank representing greater ease of doing business. The 2021 Doing Business Report has been delayed.) In the 2020 Doing Business Report, the Getting Credit component achieved a score of 25. However, other areas that continue to rank poorly and where significant regulatory improvement is still needed fall under the critical business-enabling categories of Resolving Insolvency (168 of 190), Starting a Business (173 of 190), Protecting Minority Investors (114 of 190), and Dealing with Construction Permits (148 of 190). The ease of registering real property score fell from 84 to 91 out of 190.
The National Policy Agenda is both a national development policy and a political document outlining the PA’s aspirations in three pillars: the path to independence, government reform, and sustainable development. The last section highlights the need for economic independence, including domestic reform to promote economic growth with fewer regulatory restrictions, supporting business start-ups and micro, small, and medium enterprises, as well as looking ahead to economic opportunities following the resolution of the political conflict with Israel. The PA released its National Policy Agenda for 2017-2022 in 2017, replacing the 2014-2016 National Development Plan.
PA-Israeli government trade relations are governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which was intended to endure for five years until a final peace agreement was signed. Many of the stipulations are outdated or not fully implemented. Since 1995, the PA has taken steps to facilitate and increase foreign trade by signing free trade agreements. The PA has finalized trade agreements with Russia, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States, Morocco, Tunisia, Mercosur, Vietnam, and Germany, and is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area. The PA’s signed trade agreements with the European Union, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Canada, and Turkey have not been recognized by Israel and therefore, cannot be implemented; however, the PA remains eligible for the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement signed between the United States and Israel. The PA participates roughly every other year in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meetings as an ad hoc observer, most recently in 2017. The next WTO Ministerial meetings were planned for June 2020 but have been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
The PA’s 2014 amendments to the Promotion of Investment in Palestine Law No. 1 of 1998 shifted promotional incentives from a focus on those that benefit from providing large capital investments to industrial projects to a focus on employment growth, development of human capital, increased exports, and local sourcing of machinery and raw materials (see Investment Incentives section below).
Under the Jordanian Company Law of 1966 (still in effect in the West Bank), a foreign investor should own no more than 49 percent of a company, with a local partner holding at least 51 percent. Currently, foreign investors can obtain exceptions to this law by working with PIPA and the Ministry of National Economy (MONE). Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises in areas under PA civil control. The PA’s draft of a new Company Law, which would replace the outdated 1966 law, is still under review. Once approved, it would introduce best practices from regional models for debt resolution/insolvency and protecting minority investors and would simplify the registration process for starting a business.
Certain investment categories require pre-approval by the Council of Ministers (PA Cabinet). These include investments involving (1) weapons and ammunition, (2) aviation products and airport construction, (3) electrical power generation/distribution, (4) reprocessing of petroleum and its derivatives, (5) waste and solid waste reprocessing, (6) wired and wireless telecommunication, and (7) radio and television. Purchase of land by foreigners also requires approval by the Council of Ministers. U.S. investors are not specifically disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Office of the Quartet (OQ), an international organization working to support Palestinian economic development, rule of law, and improved movement and access for goods and people, has continued to work on advancing economic initiatives and the application of the rule of law. The OQ gives priority to areas where accomplishments are most viable under current conditions. Its current priorities focus on: (i) energy; (ii) water; (iii) rule of law; (iv) movement and trade; and (v) telecommunication. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the WTO, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) do not provide investment policy reviews for the West Bank and Gaza.
Foreign companies may register businesses in the West Bank and Gaza according to the 1964 Companies Law (Gaza, under Hamas’s direction, passed a separate Companies Law in 2012). The PIPA provides information online about the business registration process at but the PA does not offer a business registration website.
The West Bank and Gaza rank low in Starting a Business on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, with a score in 2020 of 173 out of 190. The PA is working to simplify the process of starting a business, which currently requires ten steps and 43.5 days to complete, according to the World Bank report. The timeline includes two days to register the company, one day to pay registration fees, two days to register for taxes, one day to register with the Chamber of Commerce, and 36 days to obtain the required business license from the Municipality. Foreign investors must also obtain approval from the MONE and submit the application for registration through a local attorney.
Foreign companies may work with PIPA to obtain the investment registration certificate and investment confirmation certificate. See and . In addition, foreign companies seeking to open branches in the West Bank or Gaza must submit registration documents certified by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in their home country. Due to the closure of the PLO office in New York in 2018, U.S investors can use the PLO office in Canada. According to PIPA, the majority of Palestinian companies are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the PA has sought to support SME development and financing. The PA categorizes SMEs according to staff size: small enterprises employ up to nine people, while medium enterprises employ 10-19 people.
The PA does not have any mechanism for tracking outward private investment.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
The PA recognizes the international trade agreements listed below, which refer implicitly or explicitly to WTO rules. These include:
- Paris Protocol Agreement with Israel (1994) – free trade in products between Israel and Palestinian markets
- Technical and Economic Cooperation Accord with Egypt (1994)
- Trade Agreement between the PA and Jordan (1995)
- Duty Free Arrangements with the United States (1996)
- The EuroMed Interim Association Agreement on Trade and Co-operation (1997)
- Interim Agreement between European Free Trade Area (EFTA) states and the PLO (1997)
- Joint Canadian-Palestinian Framework for Economic Cooperation and Trade (1999)
- Agreement on Commercial Cooperation with Russia – extends MFN status
- Greater Arab Free Trade Area, to which the PA is a party (2001)
- Free Trade Agreement with Turkey (2004)
- Trade Agreement with the EU – duty-free access for Palestinian agricultural and fishery goods (2011)
- Free Trade Agreement with Mercosur (2011)
- Unilateral acts by other Arab trade partners extending preferential treatment to trade with the Palestinians.
Since 1996, duty-free treatment has been available for all goods exported from the West Bank and Gaza to the United States, provided they meet qualifying criteria as spelled out in the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area (FTA) Implementation Act of 1985, as amended. The benefits for imports provided by all of the trade agreements listed above are subject to the Israeli government’s application of the terms, since all goods destined for the West Bank or Gaza must enter through Israeli-controlled crossings or ports. The Israeli government generally applies duties and tariffs consistent with its trade agreements, not with the PA’s trade agreements.
The West Bank and Gaza do not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The PA established a sound legislative framework for business and other economic activity in the areas under its jurisdiction in 1994; however, implementation and monitoring of implementation needs to be strengthened, according to many observers. The PA Ministry of National Economy is in the process of drafting key pieces of economic legislation to improve business and commercial regulation, including an updated Companies Law (already under consideration by the President’s Office), new intellectual property rights protections, a Competition Law, and procedures for resolving bankruptcy. The PA President’s approval in May 2016 of the Secure Transactions Law, Leasing Law, and Moveable Assets Regulations, greatly improved Palestinians’ access to credit.
The PA Ministry of National Economy holds stakeholder meetings for draft commercial legislation to gather input from the private sector and publishes drafts of the proposed laws. Because the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has not met since 2007, each law must be approved by the Cabinet and adopted as a Presidential decree, an effort that often delays reform efforts. The proposed laws will likely need to be approved by the PLC, should it reconvene in the future. On December 22, 2018, PA President Abbas announced that the PA Constitutional Court had issued a decision formally dissolving the PLC and calling for PLC elections within six months. As of April 2021, no PLC elections have taken place, but are now scheduled for May 2021. The PA budget execution reports are publicly available, including on the Ministry of Finance website ( ). A regulatory body governs the insurance sector, and the PA has adopted a telecommunications law that calls for establishment of an independent regulator. Establishment of the telecommunications regulator remains stalled, however.
International Regulatory Considerations
The PA is not a member of the WTO but has consistently expressed an interest in Permanent Observer status, having participated in the 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 WTO Ministerial meetings as an ad hoc observer.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Commercial disputes can be resolved by way of conciliation, mediation, or domestic arbitration. Arbitration in the Palestinian territories is governed by PA Law No. 3 of 2000. International arbitration is accepted. The law sets out the basis for court recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards. Generally, every dispute may be referred to arbitration by agreement of the parties, unless prohibited by the law’s Article 4, including disputes involving marital status, public order issues, and cases where no conciliation is permitted. If the parties do not agree on the formation of the arbitration tribunal, each party may choose one arbitrator and those arbitrators shall then choose a presiding arbitrator, unless the parties agree to do otherwise.
Judgments made in other countries that need to be enforced in the West Bank and Gaza are honored, according to the prevailing law in the West Bank, primarily Jordanian Law No. 8 of 1952 as amended by the PA in 2005. Gazan courts refer back to Israeli and Egyptian laws, which were in force prior to 1993, for matters not covered by PA law; however, the de facto Hamas-led government in Gaza does not consistently apply PA, Egyptian, or Israeli laws.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Laws that govern foreign direct investment are overseen by the PA Ministry of National Economy.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
There is no Competition Law for the West Bank and Gaza currently. The PA drafted a law in 2003 that was not enacted. An effort to develop, draft, and implement a new Competition Law began in 2017 with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP). The PA’s resulting revised draft law has not yet been issued and is currently undergoing review and re-drafting before it can go to the cabinet. Because of the geographic divisions between and within the West Bank and Gaza, many firms have little to no competition, causing variations in both pricing and firm productivity between regions and sometimes between cities within a region.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Investment Law, as amended in 2014, prohibits expropriation and nationalization of approved foreign investments, other than in exceptional cases for a public purpose with a court decision and in return for fair compensation based on market prices and for losses suffered because of such expropriation.
PA sources and independent lawyers say that any Palestinian citizen can file a petition or a lawsuit against the PA. In 2011, the PA established independent, specialized courts for labor, chambers, customs, and anti-corruption. These courts are composed of judges and representatives from the Ministries of National Economy and Finance. There is general confidence in the judicial system and businesses rely on the courts and police to enforce contracts and seek redress, though alternative means of arbitration are still used to resolve some disputes.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
The PA signed the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention) in January 2015, and the Convention entered into force in April 2015. The PA is not a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention). In 2014, the IMF reported an average of 540 days to resolve a standard commercial dispute through the courts, with 44 separate procedures required for dispute resolution. Litigants suggested that the decisions at different levels of the courts were inconsistent, prompting more appeals and a larger overall caseload.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Investment Law, as amended in 2014, provides for dispute resolution between the investor and official agencies either via binding independent arbitration or by a Palestinian court decision. It has been reported that some contracts contain clauses referring dispute resolutions to the London Court of Arbitration. The Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC) provides a forum for resolving business disputes between Palestinian and Israeli companies.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
International arbitration is permitted and governed by Law No. 3 of 2000 (see section on Legal System and Judicial Independence above). Generally, every dispute may be referred to arbitration by the agreement of the parties, unless prohibited by law. Article 4 of the law states that certain disputes cannot be referred to arbitration, including those involving marital status, public order issues, and cases where no conciliation is permitted. In the event that parties do not agree on the formation of the arbitration panel, each party may choose an arbitrator and those arbitrators shall choose a presiding arbitrator unless the parties agree to proceed otherwise. Arbitral awards made in other countries that need to be enforced in the West Bank and Gaza are honored, according to the prevailing law in the West Bank, mainly Jordanian Law No. 8 of 1952 as amended by the PA in 2005. The law covers many issues in relation to the enforcement of foreign judgments.
The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report did not cite any cases involving a foreclosure, liquidation, or reorganization proceedings filed in the last 12 months. According to that report, no priority is assigned to post-commencement creditors, and debtors may only file for liquidation. The PA Ministry of National Economy, with the assistance of international donors, is in the process of drafting several proposed laws related to bankruptcy, but no bankruptcy reform has been enacted. The pending Companies Law includes a chapter on insolvency.
4. Industrial Policies
To align the PA’s development priorities with the investment incentives provided by Palestinian law, in 2014, PA President Abbas enacted by decree amendments to the Promotion of Investment in Palestine Law No. 1 of 1998, also known as the investment and tax law. These amendments extended tax incentives to small and medium sized enterprises, exporters, and agriculture and tourism businesses; and shifted the focus towards incentives on human capital instead of fixed assets. The amendments added tourism and agricultural projects to qualifying industries and removed real estate development projects from the industries promoted through the incentives. The amendments also provided additional authority to the Palestine Investment Promotion Agency (PIPA) to create incentive packages targeted to individual business needs ( ). The PA is also currently working on a package of incentives in the information and communications technology (ICT), industrial, and energy sectors, in addition to those focused on development in Area C.
The 2014 amendment to Article 23 of the Promotion of Investment in Palestine Law No. 1 of 1998 granted the following incentives and exemptions for projects approved by PIPA:
- Income tax of zero percent for producers of agricultural products whose income is directly generated from land cultivation or livestock.
- Income tax of 5 percent commencing from the date of realizing profit, but not exceeding four years of operation, whichever is earlier.
- Income tax of 10 percent for a period of three years commencing from the end of the first phase. It will thereafter be calculated based on the applicable and in-effect percentages and segments.
Projects that may be targeted for taxation incentives and support services include the following:
- Industrial sector projects;
- Tourism sector projects;
- New projects within any sector that employ at least 25 workers during the period of benefit;
- Projects that increase their production exports ratio by more than 40 percent;
- Projects within any sector that use approximately 70 percent locally sourced machinery and raw materials;
- Any existing project that adds 25 workers to the number of existing workers;
- Developmental expansions of projects (to be based on percentage of paid-in capital but not land value);
- Projects in which the PIPA Board of Directors provides specific incentive packages that comply with special criteria, meet international environment conditions or alternative energy services, or are projects located within areas of developmental priorities.
- Any project determined by PIPA’s Board of Directors to advance the public interest (subject to the nature of a project’s activity, geographical location, the extent to which the project contributes to increasing exports, creating job opportunities, advancing development, transferring knowledge, and supporting research and development for the purposes of enhancing the public benefit).
Excluded from the incentives are:
- Commercial projects;
- Insurance companies;
- Money changers;
- Real estate projects;
- Some electricity projects;
- Telecommunication services;
- Commercial services;
- Any companies that obtained concessions contracts from the Council of Ministers and operate as monopolistic companies.
In cooperation with the Palestinian Industrial Estates & Free Zones (PIEFZA), PIPA in 2017 introduced incentive packages targeting investors in the Bethlehem Industrial Park and Jericho Agro Industrial Park. The packages extend incentives for three extra years, reducing income tax by 66 percent for eight years, followed by a 33 percent reduction for three years. Tax incentives are also included for financial institutions that provide financing for the enterprises within the industrial zones.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
There are no foreign trade zones or free ports in the West Bank or Gaza.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The current performance requirements for investment incentives focus on job growth and locally sourced production. Under PA law, there are no data storage requirements for IT companies. The PA does not follow a forced localization policy and there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Acquisition Law in the West Bank, which regulates foreign acquisition and rental or lease of immovable properties, classifies foreigners into three categories with differing rights:
- Foreigners who formerly possessed Palestinian or Jordanian passports shall have the right to own certain properties sufficient to erect buildings and/or for their agricultural projects.
- Foreigners who hold other Arab passports have the right to own certain property that suffices for their living and business needs only.
- Other foreigners, including Jerusalem ID holders, must receive permission from the PA Cabinet to own buildings or purchase land.
The permit process can be lengthy and includes clearances from the intelligence and preventive security agencies. It is critical that potential purchasers of land or buildings perform a title search to ensure that no outstanding violations or unpaid penalties exist on the properties. Under current law, outstanding violations and penalties are transferred to the new owners.
Title searches can only be obtained from the PA Land Authority (al-Taboh). Land registration is done through the Land Registries in Hebron, Ramallah, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jericho, Jenin, and Gaza City. In order to purchase land in the West Bank or Gaza, an application that includes supporting documents such as deeds to the property and powers of attorney, should be submitted to the land registry office having jurisdiction over the land. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business report gave Registering Property a score of 91 out of 190 and in 2019 the PA made the process easier by removing the requirement to obtain a security check when issuing a purchase permit and by publishing official statistics on property transactions at the land registry.
The issue of land registration in the West Bank is complicated by overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, laws and customs derived from the Ottoman, British Mandate, and Jordanian periods of rule. In addition, there is no comprehensive registry of land ownership for the West Bank, and efforts to complete one are expected to take years at the current pace. The majority of the land has not been registered; even where land is registered, titles are often more than a generation old, with unresolved rights to numerous inheritors. Israeli administrative control over 60 percent of the West Bank, designated as Area C, adds an additional layer of bureaucracy and restrictions with respect to sale and use of privately held lands in those areas.
Intellectual Property Rights
The West Bank and Gaza do not have modern intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes in place; existing IPR legislation originates from a combination of Ottoman era, British Mandate, and pre-1967 Jordanian laws. Currently, intellectual property is governed by the Civil Claims Law of 1933, the Palestinian Trademark and Patent Laws of 1938 in Gaza, the Commercial Law No. 19 of 1953, and the Patent Law No. 22 of 1953 in the West Bank.
The PA was indirectly committed to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the agreement of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (GATT-TRIPS) when it signed the 1995 Interim Agreement on West Bank/Gaza according to Annex III (Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs), Appendix 1, Article 23. Despite different authorizing legislation, there are few substantive differences between IPR laws in the West Bank and Gaza. To register a trademark, four copies of the proposed trademark must be attached to the application, one of them in color, along with a copy of the company’s Certificate of Registration. A foreign company is entitled to register its trademark in the West Bank or Gaza by giving power of attorney either to a trademark agent or to a lawyer. Trademarks can be registered unless they fall within the recognized prohibition, such as being similar or identical to an already registered trademark, are likely to lead to deception of the public, or are contrary to public morality.
Trademark protection is available for registered trademarks for a period of seven years, which may be extended for additional periods of 14 years. The proprietor of a trademark in the West Bank or Gaza owns the sole right to the use of the trademark in association with the goods with which the trademark is registered. The trademark is open for opposition after being published in the Gazette for a period of three months. The holder of a trademark retains the right to bring civil action against any perpetrator in addition to criminal proceedings. Trade names are registered by the PA according to specific procedures and conditions that are laid out in the Jordanian Trade Names Registration Law No. 30 of 1953, which is still applicable in the West Bank, and Law No. 1 of 1929 in Gaza.
The Patents and Design Law No. 22 of 1953 is applicable in the West Bank and the Patents Design Law No. 64 of 1947 is applicable in Gaza. A foreign company is allowed to have a patent or design registered by giving power of attorney to a patent agent or to a lawyer, with the requisite documents. Patent protection is provided for a period of 16 years from the date of filing the patent application. Copyright in the West Bank and Gaza is governed by the Copyright Laws of 1911 and 1924. The protection lasts for a period of 50 years after the death of the author of the work. The law also deals with infringements, compulsory licenses, and many other procedural issues as well. The law prescribes imprisonment for a maximum period of one year or a fine not exceeding 100 Jordanian dinars for infringement of a registered trademark. There are no commercial or IPR courts in the Palestinian legal system. The lack of IPR protection and enforcement allows some small businesses to display trademarks without authorization. As a result, there is inconsistency in upholding U.S. trademarks and unpredictability of legal challenges to infringement.
There is minimal enforcement of IPR laws for music and movies in the West Bank and Gaza, but the PA has enforced some IPR laws to protect the Palestinian pharmaceutical industry. The PA has drafted a modern law to encompass international regulations for IPR, including copyright, patents and designs, trademarks, and merchandise branding, but the law has not yet been adopted in the absence of a functioning legislature. The PA is eager to obtain membership in the different organizations and agreements concerned with intellectual property, such as the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); it has held observer status in WIPO since 2005.
In 2012, USAID helped the PA draft a modern IPR law that has been reviewed by WIPO. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office worked with the PA and other Palestinian stakeholders to raise capacity for implementing IPR processes. Given local procedures for drafting, reviewing, and approving new legislation, a new IPR law is not expected to be enacted until 2021-2022.
Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965 2259 1455
11. Labor Policies and Practices
With its growing youth population and high rates of attendance across the schooling systems, the West Bank and Gaza have an abundant supply of educated and skilled labor. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the total population of the West Bank and Gaza in December 2020 was approximately 5 million, including 3 million in the West Bank and 2 million in the Gaza. PCBS estimated there were 1,300,600 people in the Palestinian labor force as of the end of 2020, with 910,100 in the West Bank and 390,500 in Gaza. An estimated 142,000 Palestinians from the West Bank worked in Israel and Israeli settlements at the end of 2020. Large numbers of Palestinians from Gaza worked in Israel as day laborers until Israel eliminated work permits for Gazans in 2001.
The most recent PCBS labor statistics estimate 2020 unemployment was at 14.9 percent in the West Bank and 43.1 percent in Gaza. According to PCBS, at the end of 2020, the service sector (including education and health) was the largest employer in the local market with more than one-third in the West Bank and more than half in Gaza. The public sector employed 20.7 percent of the workforce in 2020 (15.4 percent in the West Bank and 39.2 percent in Gaza). The average daily wage in the West Bank was NIS 123 (USD 37), compared with NIS 65.6 (USD 19.9) in Gaza while for the workers in Israel it was NIS 260.8 (USD 79).
The Palestinian minimum wage remained legally mandated at NIS 1,450 (USD 381.57) per month throughout 2020. However, the PA cabinet approved in February 2021 an increase of the minimum wage to NIS 1,880 ($570) per month. The ILO reported in 2017 that 39 percent of all private sector workers earned less than the statutory minimum wage, including 76 percent of workers in Gaza and 47 percent of women overall. Also, according to the PCBS, at the end of 2020, 24 percent of the private sector wage employees received less than the minimum wage. In Gaza the monthly wage minimum is NIS 682 (USD 206), while in the West Bank it is NIS 1,062 (USD 321). According to the most recent Labor Force Survey (Q4, 2020), private sector labor distribution in the West Bank and Gaza, by sector, is as follows: 35.6 percent – Services and Other Branches
- 35.6 percent – Services and Other Branches
- 20 percent – Commerce, Hotels, Restaurants
- 18.4 percent – Construction
- 13.5 percent – Mining, Quarrying, Manufacturing
- 6.5 percent – Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting
- 6 percent – Transportation, Storage, Communication
PA labor law does not explicitly prohibit forced or compulsory labor, but does forbid the use of child labor, in accordance with international standards. However, there are reports of forced labor and child labor in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly in agricultural work and the informal economy. According to the PCBS, in 2020, 3 percent of children (aged 10-17 years) were employed (5 percent in the West Bank and one percent in Gaza). Despite the widespread informal economy, most large Palestinian employers rely on standard, long-term employment contracts with minimal use of temporary workers. Israeli labor law applies to settlements in the West Bank, but authorities do not enforce it uniformly.
PA law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent unions and conduct legal strikes. The law requires conducting collective bargaining without any pressure or influence but does not explicitly provide for the right to collective bargaining. Anti-union discrimination and employer interference in union functions are illegal, but the law does not specifically prohibit termination due to union activity. Non-governmental organizations do not consider labor unions to be independent of authorities and political parties. The requirements for legal strikes are cumbersome and strikers have little protection from retribution. The PA Ministry of Labor can impose arbitration; in such cases, workers or their trade unions face disciplinary action if they reject the result. If the ministry cannot resolve a dispute, it can be referred first to a committee chaired by a delegate from the ministry and composed of an equal number of members designated by the workers and by the employer, and, if the committee is unsuccessful, it can be referred to a specialized labor court. Teachers, who comprise the most significant portion of the public sector work force, participated in a large-scale strike with demonstrations in early 2016 protesting partial pay.
In early 2016, the PA President approved a new Social Security Law mandating compulsory social security contributions from private sector employees and their employers to a new Palestinian Social Security Fund. It was to be implemented on November 1, 2018; however, in late 2018, the PA President postponed implementation indefinitely due to large-scale protests opposing it. The ILO together with the Ministry of Labor, civil society organizations, and the private sector plan to work together on modifying the social security law to meet the needs of all relevant parties. The first stage of the law is expected to be implemented by the beginning of 2022 for companies that hire 100 people or more.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
According to the PCBS, the stock of foreign investment in the West Bank and Gaza at the end of 2018 (most recent data available) amounted to USD 3.837 billion. This includes foreign direct investment (USD 2.716 billion), portfolio investments (USD 668 million), and other investments (USD 453 million).
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
- Preliminary PCBS data – note final and Basis Year for GDP calculations was changed by PCBS from 2004 to 2015
- Estimated GDP for 2020 is $12.97 billion
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment (N/A)|
|Total Inward||$1,432||100%||Total Outward||Amount||100%|
|Kingdom of Saudi Arabia||$27||1.6%||N/A||Amount||X%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
The private Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO) has invested over USD 250 million in telecommunications, housing, and the establishment of the Palestine Exchange (PEX). The Ramallah-based Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC) is a large foreign investment group with authorized capital of over USD 100 million. Four private equity funds operate in the West Bank/Gaza, largely comprised of foreign investors: Riyada, Siraj, Sharakat, and Sadara. Other significant foreign investments include Qatari mobile operator Ooredoo’s projected USD 600 million investment in Ooredoo Palestine (formerly Wataniya Mobile) over a 10-year period, and Qatari Diar’s USD 1 billion investment in Rawabi, a mixed use/affordable housing real estate development. The largest U.S. investment is Coca-Cola’s 15 percent stake in the local bottler, Palestine National Beverage Company (PNBC), a company valued at USD 70 million. PNBC opened a USD 20 million bottling facility in Gaza in December 2016, in addition to its three West Bank-based plants.
|Table 4: Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$1,416||100%||All Countries||$402||100%||All Countries||$1,014||100%|
|Non- Specified||$56||3.9%||Kuwait||$15||3.7%||International Organizations||$43||4.2%|
|International Organizations||$36||2.5%||Egypt||$6||1.5%||Not Specified||$26||2.5%|
|Kuwait||$31||2%||United States||$4||1%||United States||$19||1.5%|