Israel Bars Palestinians From Exporting Produce via Jordan

Move follows Defense Minister Bennett's instruction to stop agricultural imports from Palestinian Authority after Ramallah limited the import of calves from Israel

Palestinian farmers harvest cauliflower at a field in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, February 1, 2020.
AFP

Israel banned on Sunday the export of Palestinian produce via Jordan, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil said, marking a further escalation in a trade dispute between Israel and the Palestinians that began in October.

According to the office of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, the move is part of the sanctions that Israel placed on the Palestinian Authority after the PA limited the import of calves from Israel. The sanctions are tiered, and will be increased so long as the crisis remains unresolved. 

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"Let it be stressed that as soon as the Palestinian Authority reverses its decision to harm the cattle trade with Israel and the free market" the order will be rescinded, said a statement from Kamil's office.

Jordanian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last weekend, Bennett instructed the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to stop agricultural imports from the Palestinian Authority.

In 2019, the Palestinian Authority exported produce worth 502 million shekels.

"Yesterday, the director of Israeli crossings informed all exporters and all relevant parties that all Palestinian agriculture products, including fruits, vegetables, dates, and olive oil, would be banned from export to world markets through the Jordanian crossing starting Sunday," Palestinian Agriculture Minister Riad Attari told Saturday Voice of Palestine Radio.

"We are at a critical political moment and we completely understand the negative impact that will result from these measures, but I say with all confidence that that negative impact will also affect the Israeli economy," al-Attari said.

"We have several options and measures with which we can respond to each Israeli decision that aims to harm our national economy," he added.

Palestinian farmers have complained in recent days about many delays in transportation of agricultural products meant for export through Jordan, noting that some of the produce was returned to the West Bank.

According to the Palestinians, Israel sent back to the West Bank nine out of 25 trucks loaded with goods worth 50 million shekels that was headed to Turkey via Jordan.    

He was pressured to make the move by Israeli cattle growers. The PA responded by stating that they would study the decision and respond accordingly.

In recent years, Israeli cattle growers have been selling Palestinians some 140,000 calves annually, worth $289,981,150. But in recent months the PA started trying to import calves independently as part of a policy led by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to disengage financially from Israel.

In September, the PA vetoed the import of calves from Israel. Jerusalem had perceived this move as a breach of the agricultural trade agreement it forged with the Palestinians as part of the economic pacts of the Oslo Accords in 1994. In response, Israel slapped sanctions on the PA: It revoked Palestinian businesspeople's passage and trade licenses, halted the passage of donations into the Strip and didn't allow Palestinians to bring the cattle they imported independently into Gaza.

In December, Israel and the PA agreed to end the boycott, chiefly because of the rise in cattle prices in the West Bank. The two parties agreed that the PA could purchase cattle from Israel, but in a limited capacity. Israeli cattle growers, who were averse to this agreement, demanded that Israel stop importing vegetables from the West Bank and from Gaza as a means of pressuring the Palestinians into accepting their demands.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli live fire during clashes in the West Bank near Tullkarem, the Palestinian Authority said Friday, as violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank continue to escalate following the unveiling of President Donald Trump's Mideast peace plan.

Israel Police said two border policewomen were lightly wounded after altercations erupted between hundreds of Plaestinians and Israeli security forces near the northern West Bank village of Azzun. A soldier was also lightly wounded by a rock thrown by Palestinians.

Reuters contributed to this report.