Middle East

Israel blocks Palestinian exports in escalating trade crisis

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military blocked Palestinian agricultural exports on Sunday in the latest escalation of a months-long trade war that comes amid fears of renewed violence as well.

Following Defense 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 Western-backed 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% 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 Mideast plan, which the Palestinians have rejected. A week of protests culminated Thursday with an early morning attack on Israeli soldiers, which left more than a dozen wounded, and clashes in which four Palestinians were killed.

Reporting by The Associated Press

Image: Palestinians walk next to the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. The Palestinians on Friday rejected U.S. allegations of incitement after a day of clashes and attacks left three Palestinians dead and more than a dozen Israelis wounded. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

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