Israel blocks Palestinian agricultural exports in escalating trade crisis
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Israel blocks Palestinian agricultural exports in escalating trade crisis

Standoff sparked by Palestinian boycott of Israeli cattle sees growing Israeli crackdown on PA’s ability to sell its produce to the rest of the world

Illustrative: A Palestinian youth in Jerusalem displays his produce during Ramadan, July 24, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian youth in Jerusalem displays his produce during Ramadan, July 24, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Israel blocked Palestinian agricultural exports on Sunday in the latest escalation of a monthslong trade war that comes amid fears of renewed violence as well.

Following Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s instructions, the military said it would not allow Palestinian farmers to transfer their products through the Allenby border crossing into Jordan, the West Bank’s only direct export route to the outside world.

The Palestinian Authority said Israeli forces at checkpoints in the West Bank have blocked vegetable shipments that were on their way to export abroad. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture statement said vegetable exports to Israel were worth $88 million last year, comprising 68% of the West Bank’s overall vegetable exports.

The crisis erupted in September, when the Palestinians decided to stop importing beef from Israel. The Palestinian Authority claimed most of the 120,000 head of cattle they imported monthly from Israel was itself imported and that they therefore preferred to import directly from abroad. The move appeared aimed at reducing the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel.

Illustrative: A Palestinian farmer hoses off the udders of cows at the Jebrini dairy farm in the West Bank town of Hebron, April 10, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

Shortly after the September announcement, Israeli cattle ranchers saw a drop in their market and pressured Israeli authorities to take action. Bennett retaliated with a ban on Palestinian beef and other products, triggering the Palestinians to expand their boycott, and stop importing Israeli vegetables, fruit, beverages and mineral water.

The Palestinians say their actions are aimed at pressuring Israel into revoking its ban, while Israel says normal trade will be restored the moment the Palestinians reverse the cattle ban that started the crisis in the first place.

The trade crisis comes amid a surge in violence following the release of the Trump administration’s peace plan, which the Palestinians have rejected. A week of protests culminated Thursday with an early morning car-ramming attack on Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem and two shooting attacks in the West Bank that together left 14 Israelis wounded, as well as clashes with Israeli forces in Jenin, Bethlehem and elsewhere in the West Bank in which four Palestinians, including two members of the PA’s security forces, were killed.

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