A new industrial park in Bethlehem opens its gates in about one month thanks to French support and assistance from the Israeli government.

The industrial park is set to be both modern and environmentally friendly, with solar panels providing 15 percent of the park’s electricity needs and recycled waste water being utilized for irrigating the park’s green areas. It also seeks to decrease the high unemployment rate within the Palestinian Authority and strengthen the Palestinian economy.

“This project will make a multidisciplinary contribution,” explained Lieutenant-Colonel Eyal Zeevi, Head of Israel’s Bethlehem District Coordination Liaison Office. “It will boost education, jobs and the quality of the environment, and its main impact will be to make a significant contribution to the local economy.” According to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories website, “The industrial park is set to provide around 1,500 new jobs (a figure which will only increase with the construction of additional factories in the area) and 15% of the factories’ profits is to be set aside for the benefit of the neighboring villages.”

This new park is the fruition  a protocol agreement between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed in 2008.  According to the  protocol, the French Government, represented by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), financed the infrastructure and provided aesthetic support, whereas the Palestinian Authority, represented by the Palestinian Industrial Estates and Free Zones Authority (PIEFZA), ensured the availability and suitability of land for the construction and development of the project.

Hervé Conan, Director of the  Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in Judea and Samaria, said of Israel’s role in developing the park, “I feel that the Civil Administration showed understanding and gave the project its full support every step of the way when challenges arose which were already beyond my control, the relevant officers responded positively and were partners in finding solutions. I think that it is a common goal for all the parties – to stimulate a new spirit of creativity and ambitiousness in this region in particular and in the West Bank in general.”

“We appreciate all the support and assistance received from the Civil Administration throughout the project,” explained Dr. Samir Hazboun, Chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and the industrial zones board of management. “The project has not reached completion, they shall continue to create additional factories and companies here and I hope that the cooperation between all of us shall continue and that next year at least four new factories shall start operating.”

By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel

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