In a sharp escalation of tension, Israel’s agriculture minister has ordered that any agricultural exports from the West Bank be blocked. The Israeli brand might not be so robust anymore.
Israel is already reviewing its agricultural supplies because of a supply glut that has hit local farmers hard. Farmers in the West Bank have long exported to Arab states, but there is a political risk in marketing produce to the largely Muslim world.
There is even more reason to shield West Bank farmers from further economic disruptions. Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are at an all-time high, and Israel isn’t far from instituting a partial or complete closure of the West Bank. Some villagers in Hebron have already run out of products and are selling wholesale to Arab farmers in the city, with Israel buying the surplus to drive down the price.
“There’s an urgency,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said in a radio interview on Friday.
Tensions between the two sides have been high since the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December. The new status made it harder for Palestinians to continue negotiations, and Israel has stepped up settlement construction, in violation of a 2003 international settlement agreement.
It’s not clear whether Ariel’s new order, which was issued Sunday, will move the West Bank agricultural market from a state of emergency to another. He said that because of a global oversupply in the United States and countries including Argentina, “it’s no longer possible to take risks and export anything, including halal products.”