The Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday that it would bar products made by five Israeli food manufacturers from sale in areas under its control.
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Israeli sources described the decision as a tit-for-tat move, after Israel recently barred products made by five Palestinian dairy companies from sale in East Jerusalem and Israel proper.
The five Israeli companies on the banned list are dairy manufacturers Tnuva and Tara, the Strauss Group, which makes a wide variety of products, prepared meat manufacturer Soglowek and the beverage company Tapuzina.
The Palestinians said the Israel ban on their products contravened economic agreements, while Israeli sources described it as a public health decision stemming from the Palestinian failure to maintain Israeli veterinary standards.
The Palestinian decision to bar Israeli products followed contacts between the two sides in recent days.
Palestinian Agricultural Minister Sufian Sultan told Haaretz that the Palestinian companies meet all international veterinary standards. The PA had offered to cooperate with all Israeli technical and professional requirements but had not received a satisfactory response, he said.
"We are certain that it was an essentially political decision," Sultan said. "The Palestinian companies sold their products in Jerusalem until recently without any problem." The only was the Israeli ban could be understood was as a move to separate Jerusalem economically from the rest of the West Bank, he said.
The PA said that outlets that had products from the five Israeli companies in stock would be able to sell them, but additional purchases from the companies were banned.
According to Palestinian sources, the ban on selling the Palestinian products in Israel had caused economic damage running to hundreds of millions of shekels to the companies concerned. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Israel's policy was a gross violation of agreements, causing the authority into tit-for-tat retaliation,
But an Israeli source, who asked not to be identified, said he doubted that the ban would be honored. “Every half year or year they repeated this declaration, but it has no practical effect. Both because they can’t manage without Israeli products and they don’t really have any way of removing products from Palestinian shelves,” he said.
Nor is there much expectation in the PA that the ban on Israeli products will be successful, given the fact that the Gaza Strip market is heavily dependent on Israeli products.
Nevertheless, Palestinian businessman Yasser Alwadiyeh, who owns a food manufacturing company and markets Israeli products in Gaza announced on Wednesday that he would stop selling Strauss products in Gaza and called on other businesses to follow suit.
"In order to protect public health, including that of East Jerusalem residents, the Agricultural Ministry sets requirements for the import of animal-based products into Israel," the ministry said in a statement.
"The purpose of those requirements is to prevent the entry of tainted or infected meat into the country. Such requirements are in effect all over the world.
"For foreign relations reasons, the ministry has been required in the past to allow the import of meat and poultry on the basis of minimal standards. The ministry allowed an extension of the imports until the terms could be agreed.
"When the authority didn't keep its promises – including not even filling in the basic questionnaire of the veterinary services regarding control measures that would be observed, which is required of all parties exporting animal-based products to Israel – the ministry had no option but to favor the wellbeing of the public over local politics.
"The ministry understands the diplomatic importance, but no normal country would allow such products to be sold within its borders. The ministry invites foreign veterinary services to assess whether the food originating in the Palestinian Authority is suitable for import into the United States and Europe."
"In the event that the authority agrees to cooperate with the ministry, like all other exporters, the granting of permits for the continued import of animal-based products will be reevaluated."