The Palestinian Authority coordinated with the Israel Defense Forces on the limits imposed on Palestinian villagers in the Nablus area who need to get to their olive groves near the neighboring settlements.

As reported in Haaretz yesterday, IDF officers and Civil Administration workers handed out timetables in more than 30 villages detailing the days and hours farmers can go to their groves for the olive harvest, which began recently. The farmers will get IDF escorts to protect them from any rogue settlers.

Each village was given up to three days to pick the olives from groves adjacent to settlements during the harvest season, which lasts about five weeks.

Palestinian Authority officials, including Hani Albazari of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry, Fadel Alshuli and Mahmoud Alalul of the Nablus governor's office, and Masud Haraz, in charge of civilian coordination in the Nablus area, met in recent weeks with Israeli military officials in charge of the Nablus area.

During those meetings, they reached agreements on the timetables that were applied to each village. Some local village leaders were also brought in for the talks, which covered issues such as the influence of the Ramadan fast on the timing of the harvest timetables. Military sources say the timetables were also coordinated with local settlement leaders.

The contacts with the military and the agreements regarding the timing of individual village harvests are contradictory to PA policy, which rejects any such low-level negotiations with Israeli officials until high-level political negotiations ensue between the sides, something Israel opposes.

Despite the agreements, and even though the harvest has only just begun, it is already clear that the limits mean many villagers will not be able to finish the harvests in the areas near the settlements. It is not clear if the Palestinian farmers will even try to approach their groves that are near the settlements.

In some cases, when Palestinian farmers did try to reach their groves they were driven off by settlers. Yesterday, four Palestinians from the village of Salam and four International Solidarity Mission activists who were trying to harvest olives in the Elon Moreh area were detained for questioning.

Palestinian agricultural sources said the harvests this year will be about average for the past few years and the price for olive oil is considered low at around NIS 15 per kilo, paid to the farmers.