Russia-Ukraine crisis to pose major implications on Palestinians — experts

Handout picture released on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian Interior ministry on March 1, 2022 show the smoke after a missile attack targeting the Ukrainian capital’s television centre in Kyiv. (Photo: UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY PRESS SERVICES / AFP)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Despite their distance from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Palestinians vocalized that the European conflict would directly impact them one way or another. اضافة اعلان

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and most Palestinian leadership opted out taking a stance or sharing comments on the crisis, citing their position on the conflict as a “lose-lose” situation, according to what a Palestinian official told Jordan News.

“We have close relations with the leadership in Moscow, and anything we say will jeopardize their support to our cause,” said the official, asking to remain anonymous.

According to US-based Palestinian Affairs expert, Hasan Awwad, Palestinians’ past experience taught them a lesson “not to interfere or give opinions of what happens elsewhere,” due to the likelihood of them being harmed due to their stance.

 “Palestinians, morally and as a matter of principle, can’t support any occupation or injustice to any people, especially since they have suffered from displacement and occupation.”

Increased fighting between Russia and Ukraine could cause thousands of Ukrainian Jews to flee Ukraine and immigrate to Israel, but Palestinians warned that they will settle in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government announced that it is ready to absorb the wave of immigration from Ukraine, and the evacuation of about 8,000 Israelis from Kyiv.

According to the Israeli “emergency plan” — “details of which” were revealed by Israeli media —when necessary, Israel plans to bring in 5,000 Jews from Ukraine in one week, a number much larger than what the Ministry of Absorption and the responsible bodies in Israel are used to.

Political analyst Nihad Abu Ghosh told Jordan News that Israel is “using wars to increase settlement building in the occupied West Bank by promoting immigration.”

“Since the emergence of the Zionist movement, the Israelis have exploited wars to recruit hundreds of thousands of Jews and replace the Palestinians with them” said Abu Ghosh.

The potential growth of settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are regarded as illegal under international law, due to Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants, has caused concerns to rise amongst Palestinians.

“Certainly, this is a source of concern for the Palestinians. We noticed the same thing after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s,” said Abu Ghosh.

He also added that the Palestinian situation is fragile, “when the Palestinian economy and Palestinian life depend on international support, this puts the Palestinians in a weaker position than before.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign aid to the Palestinians was reduced because donor countries had other priorities, according to Abu Ghosh, who expects the same thing to happen now because “there will be Ukrainian refugees and the reconstruction of Ukraine … This will push the needs of the Palestinians back.”

Beyond funding, Awwad voiced concerns over the Palestinian cause becoming marginalized and losing its importance as global interest shifts towards the war in Ukraine. “The same thing happened during the so-called Arab Spring when the Palestinian cause lost some of its importance and was relegated to the back burner,” said Awwad.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine carries huge risks to a world economy that has yet to recover from the pandemic fully.

Palestinian economic and financial experts have warned that conflict will cause a big blow to their economy which is already reeling from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and from decreasing financial aid from international donors.

Ramallah-based economic analyst Thabit Abo Al-Ros told Jordan News that the war in Ukraine threatens Palestinian economic recovery, and could impact growth, inflation, and unemployment rate.

“The Palestinian economy is already struggling, and the war will lead to a spike in the price of several food staples, and shortage of foods like flour,” Ros added. “There are direct effects on the Palestinian economy resulting from the rise in the main commodities that are imported from Ukraine, as many Palestinian companies import directly from Ukraine commodities such as legumes, wheat, flour, and oils.”

Ros warned that the Palestinian economy is at risk of witnessing its biggest inflation surge in decades. “The increase in prices will lead to financial inflation from 6 to 7 percent,” he said.

Observers say this will lead to instability.

“We have seen several demonstrations take place throughout the West Bank, and mainly in Hebron because of high prices; if the Palestinian Authority does not have a sound economic and financial policy, it will lead to more protests,” said Awwad.

Palestinians have complained of a fuel crisis at several gas stations this past weekend, just days before another rise in the price of gas, bringing the price of one liter to seven shekels ($2.17), the highest price since 2014, and the second consecutive spike since the beginning of this year.

“The alternative market may be the US market, and this will lead to an increase in the cost of transportation, which is already high as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ros.

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