Palestinians launch diplomatic push to get Israel to end export ban

Jerusalem on Sunday said it would stop letting Palestinians export goods through Jordan, days after also blocking products going to Israel in retaliation for cattle boycott

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

A Palestinian vendor sells dates for Ramadan at a market in Jenin, June 28, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Ballas)
A Palestinian vendor sells dates for Ramadan at a market in Jenin, June 28, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Ballas)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday that his government has instructed diplomats to urge their host countries to pressure Israel to reverse its decision to ban Palestinian agricultural exports through Jordan, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Israeli officials said on Sunday that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett had ordered authorities to stop allowing Palestinians to export agricultural goods by way of the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank because of the PA’s decision to boycott cattle for slaughter from Israel.

Shtayyeh added that his government had also taken steps to “confront” the ban by sending letters to member states of the World Trade Organization as well as filing complaints in international courts, the Wafa report stated.

Bennett’s move came approximately a week after he ordered authorities to ban the entry of Palestinian produce into Israel, which officials said was also in response to the PA’s decision to boycott of cattle for slaughter from the Jewish state.

The PA then responded to Bennett’s directive barring Palestinian agricultural exports to Israel by banning Israeli fruit, vegetable, juice and bottled water imports to Palestinian markets.

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 to Tareq Abu Laban, a senior official in the PA Agriculture Ministry.

Meanwhile, Palestinians usually import around seven times the amount of agricultural products from Israel that they export to Israeli markets, Samir Abdullah, a researcher at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute-MAS, said in a phone call.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry Body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, said on Sunday that if the PA reneges on its decision to boycott cattle for slaughter from Israel, it would also reverse its ban on Palestinian agriculture exports.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, chairs a cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley village of Fasayil, September 16, 2019. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

It also stated that the PA’s boycott of cattle from Israel has caused significant economic harm to Israeli cattle breeders.

Shtayyeh declared in September 2019 that the Palestinians would prevent cattle from Israel from being imported into areas under their control.

But in December 2019, the PA ended its embargo on cattle from Israel after authorities agreed to allow the Palestinians to directly import cattle from abroad, set up a special cattle quarantine station and export eggs to Israeli markets, Abu Laban said in an interview last week.

A month later, though, the PA reversed course and banned the cattle imports again, Abu Laban said.

“Israel did not abide by the agreement,” he said. “So we stopped allowing its cattle into our markets again in January.”

The Israeli Agriculture Ministry declined to comment on Abu Laban’s statements and referred questions to COGAT, which did not respond to an inquiry.

The PA Agriculture Ministry suggested on Monday that it did not intend to end its boycott of cattle from Israel in the coming period.

“No. We are not importing cattle from Israel,” the ministry said in a Facebook post.

In a similar dispute in late 2018, Israeli and the Palestinians authorities temporarily banned some of the other’s goods from their own markets.

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