Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) appear to be on the brink of a trade war, with the far-right government’s Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett, announcing on Friday, January 31, that Israel would be stopping all agricultural imports from the occupied West Bank starting Sunday, February 2.
What triggered this discord was an October decision by the Palestinians to boycott cattle and sheep meat products from Israel, with the Palestinian Authority complaining that the occupying power was forcing it to buy from Israeli farmers and limiting its access to cheaper meat products from overseas.
In response to Bennet’s announcement, PA President Mahmoud Abbas ordered all imports from Israel stopped. However PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that Ramallah would “study Bennett’s decision” and would take the appropriate measures in response. The spokesman did not elaborate on what courses of action were being considered. Palestinian Minister of Agriculture Riyad Atari said the government would be examining its next steps. The PA imports from Israel tens of billions of shekels worth of products annually. Israel imports some 700 million shekels worth of goods from the PA, mostly fruit and vegetables.
Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) has sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to intervene. Cassif wrote that Bennett, from the messianic and neoliberal, right-wing Yamina party, was attempting to starve the West Bank ahead of the March vote for electioneering purposes. The dispute comes amidst increased tensions between Israel and the PA over the release of US President Trump’s imperialist “Deal of the Century,” which the Palestinians have bitterly rejected.