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Israel blocks Palestinian agricultural produce at West Bank's only direct export route

The block came into force after instructions from minister Naftali Bennett [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2020

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Israel has blocked Palestinian exports from the West Bank's only direct export route to the outside world following orders from the Israeli defence minister.
The Israeli military 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 Defence Minister Naftali Bennett's instruction, the military said it would not allow the Palestinians to transfer their products through their land crossing to Jordan, the West Bank's only direct export route to the outside world.

The Palestinian Authority said Israeli forces at checkpoints blocked vegetable shipments that were in their way to export abroad. The Ministry of Agriculture statement said vegetable exports to Israel were worth $88 million last year, comprising 68 percent 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.

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, fruits, beverages and mineral water.

The Palestinians say their actions are aided at pressuring Israel into revoking its ban, while Israel says normal trade will be restored the moment the Palestinian 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 President Trump's Middle East plan, which the Palestinians have rejected.

Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" plan calls for Israel to have an "undivided" capital in Jerusalem, with Palestinians allowed a much smaller capital in the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem that have already been cut off from the city by the seperation wall. 

The plan's call for annexing much of the West Bank has been widely condemned, with many comparing it to the bantustans created under the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

This demilitarised Palestinian state - consisting of disconnected parts of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Negev desert - would also be subject to complete Israeli control over its security. 

    

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