In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of Century” announcement on January 28, Israel has banned the export of Palestinian agricultural produce from the West Bank via Jordan. The estimated value of such exports amounts to $100 million annually.
The majority of these exports are crops cultivated in the Jordan Valley region which Israel has announced its intention to annex, consistent with Trump’s recently unveiled “peace plan,” which has been utterly and vehemently rejected by the Palestinians.
On Friday, February 7, Israeli military forces ordered the drivers of a number of Palestinian truckloads of agricultural produce, originating in the West Bank and on their way to the Kingdom of Jordan, to turn around.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are in the midst of a trade war following the announcement by Naftali Bennett, the far-right government’s defense minister, on Friday, January 31, that Israel would be stopping all agricultural imports from the occupied West Bank starting Sunday, February 2. Exports of Palestinian agricultural products to Israel amounted to $88 million dollars in 2018.
What triggered this discord was an October decision by the Palestinians to boycott cattle and sheep meat products from Israel, with the Palestinian Authority complaining that the occupying power was forcing it to buy from Israeli farmers and limiting its access to cheaper meat products from overseas.
Last week, in response to Bennet’s decision banning the entry of Palestinian agricultural products into Israel, the Palestinian government declared a ban on the entry of Israeli products into the Palestinian market, including vegetables, fruits, juices, mineral water and carbonated drinks.
Minister of National Economy, Khaled Osseili, said on Sunday, February 9, that the Palestinian government is pursuing political, diplomatic and legal action to break Israel’s recent ban on the Palestinian agricultural exports abroad. Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Palestinian Export Council in Ramallah, Osseili described the Israeli ban on Palestinian agricultural exports as a flagrant violation of the rules of the World Trade Organization, of which Israel is a member, as well as other relevant agreements and treaties.
Osseili affirmed the support of the Palestinian government for the local farmers and exporters so that they would be able to withstand the Israeli punitive measures and policies, which he said were aimed at stifling the Palestinian economy to serve Israeli electoral propaganda.
The Palestinian minister stressed the importance of all parties’ joining forces to confront the Israeli ban on Palestinian agricultural exports, as well as to help the government achieve its vision of economically disengaging from the Israeli occupation.