Executive summary

United Nations General Assembly resolutions 69/20, 70/12 and 71/20 request the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to assess and report on the economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people. The objective of this study is to ensure that any upcoming economic analyses and reports on the costs of occupation are fully within the bounds of international law and the parameters set by the relevant United Nations resolutions.

Israel bears legal responsibility for the costs it has entailed during its occupation of Palestinian territory. This responsibility is separate from Israel’s obligation to withdraw from that territory. The legal responsibility of a belligerent occupant for the negative economic consequences of actions in violation of humanitarian law survives the occupant’s departure. Israel is responsible both for economic harm it has occasioned and for unjust enrichment it has derived. It also bears an obligation under international law to further the development of the economy for the population whose territory it occupies.

Israel’s obligation in this regard can be found in the humanitarian law developed to protect populations under belligerent occupation. Its obligation is also grounded in the law of human rights, which protects populations during both war and peace. In other instances of belligerent occupation that have occurred, occupying Powers that have caused harm have been recognized to bear an obligation for restitution. This has been ordered by international courts and the Security Council of the United Nations, and has been provided for in peace treaties.

The international community as a whole bears an obligation to ensure that in the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the belligerent occupant is held accountable for harm caused in the course of occupation. Belligerent occupation is a situation that has been recognized by the international community as requiring collective action to ensure compliance with the norms that govern it. This collective responsibility is reflected in treaty law and in international practice.

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