Israel, Palestinian Authority appear to reach arrangement to end trade war
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Israel, Palestinian Authority appear to reach arrangement to end trade war

PA says Israel agreed to allow it to import cattle directly from abroad; defense minister says Palestinians consented to lifting their boycott of cattle from Israel

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Cattle at Kibbutz Sarid in Emek Yezreel on January 24, 2017 (Anat Hermoni/Flash90)
Cattle at Kibbutz Sarid in Emek Yezreel on January 24, 2017 (Anat Hermoni/Flash90)

Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday appeared to have come to an agreement to end a major trade dispute in which both sides placed sweeping restrictions on some of each other’s goods.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel would be lifting a ban on Palestinian exports, while a Palestinian official said the PA would remove limitations on Israeli imports to Palestinian markets.

The Palestinian Authority’s economy and agriculture ministries said that Israel agreed to allow the Palestinians to directly import cattle from abroad and set up quarantine stations for it.

Meanwhile, Bennett said that the PA consented to lifting its boycott of cattle for slaughter from Israel.

A Palestinian farmer picks tomatoes at his farm in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza strip, 08 August 2007. (Ahmed Khateib /Flash90)

A Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Palestinians would be prioritizing importing cattle from abroad but would turn to Israeli cattle farmers to make up for demand that they are unable to meet through the international market.

Last September, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced that the Palestinians would prevent cattle from Israel from being imported into areas under their control. At the time, he said that the move was a part of an effort to make the Palestinian economy less dependent on the Jewish state.

Tareq Abu Laban, a senior official at the PA Agriculture Ministry, said that the Palestinians had agreed to lift the boycott in December after Israel consented to permit them to directly import cattle from abroad, set up quarantine stations for it and export eggs to Israel.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett attends the campaign launch of his right-wing Yamina party, ahead of the general elections, February 12, 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Abu Laban, however, said that Israel never implemented that agreement, compelling the PA to re-institute its boycott on cattle from Israel in January.

Bennett subsequently responded to the renewed Palestinian boycott by ordering Israeli authorities to stop allowing Palestinians to export agricultural goods to Israel. He also later directed them to bar Palestinians from sending goods abroad through the Allenby crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

The PA, meanwhile, responded to Bennett’s decision to bar Palestinian exports to Israel by banning the import of a number of Israeli products to Palestinian markets.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian farmers (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinians exported around $100 million in agricultural products in 2018, including dates and olive oil. About half went to Israel while the rest was sent to other countries, according Abu Laban.

In contrast, Palestinians imported approximately $300 million in agricultural goods from Israel in 2018, PA Agriculture Minister Riad al-Atari told Al Mamlaka TV, a Jordanian state-funded channel, in early February.

The PA Economy and Agriculture ministries also said on Thursday that Israel had already allowed for the Palestinians to directly import one shipment of cattle from Portugal.

Before instituting its boycott, Palestinians had imported around 12,000 heads of cattle from Israel on a monthly basis, according to a spokeswoman for the Israeli Agriculture Ministry.

Israeli officials said that the PA’s boycott of cattle from Israel had caused significant economic harm to Israeli cattle farmers.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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