Palestinian Officials Confiscate Merchandise Produced in Settlements

Move is part of plan to remove all settlement-made goods from PA markets by the end of 2010.

Palestinian officials are confiscating merchandise produced in West Bank settlements as part of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan to remove all goods made in the settlements from Palestinian markets by the end of next year.

Although the government banned goods from settlements some time ago, it only launched a concerted effort to enforce the ban a few months ago.

Sources in the National Economy Ministry said that NIS 651,982 worth of goods were confiscated and disposed of in the second week of December alone. The goods included Ahava cosmetics and toiletries, plastic products, long-life milk made in the Golan, Mei Eden mineral water and pastries from the Atarot industrial park.

The campaign kicked off five weeks ago with the confiscation of merchandise on four trucks that had left the Barkan industrial zone near Ariel carrying metal products and raw material for diapers.

A committee consisting of officials from several ministries was set up to supervise the process. Economy Ministry officials and customs agents are seizing merchandise directly from the distributors rather than trawling shops and marketplaces for forbidden goods.

The ministry first warned merchants via regional chambers of commerce that dealing in goods from the settlements was prohibited and such merchandise would be seized.

A ministry official said he realized, after a recent meeting with a British minister, that "we can't demand that others do what we're not doing ourselves."

Products from the settlements are widespread in the West Bank, making it difficult for the authorities to remove them, officials said. For example, the offices of many Palestinian ministries have doors made by Mul-T-Lock in its plant near Barkan. But according to the Israeli web site, Mul-T-Lock's owner, the Swedish corporation Assa Abloy, has promised to relocate the plant inside the Green Line.

In violation of both the Oslo accords and Israel's "economic peace" policy, Israel makes it almost impossible to market Palestinian merchandise, a ministry official said - not only in Israel, but even in the Palestinian Authority. And trade between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is all but nonexistent.

However, said National Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh, the PA is not taking steps against Israeli-made goods, only against products made in the settlements - "which are in violation of international law, steal our land and natural resources and damage our industry and produce."