PA Lifts Ban on Israeli Calves, Sheep

Shepherds walk with their flock of sheep in the Jordan Valley. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

A mini-trade crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was resolved when the PA lifted a short-lived ban on the import of calves and sheep from Israel. The policy change came after a meeting between PA officials and top staff of the Agriculture Ministry. The PA will set up a special “exceptions committee” which will consider the requests of farmers and ranchers to get animals from Israel, and the committee will be very liberal in issuing special permits, Kan News reported.

In return, Israel will discuss demands by the PA that Israel allow more agricultural produce in. The PA has long complained that Israel is artificially blocking the import of PA produce in order to harm its economy, and that as as a result, hundreds of thousands of tons of produce are destroyed each year because there is no market for it. Last week, the IDF’s Coordinator for Activities in the Territories, General Kamil Abu-Rukin, warned the PA that if it did not end the ban, Israel would retaliate by banning PA-produced agricultural products. Israel is the biggest market for PA-produced fruits and vegetables.

The PA began banning the import of live sheep and calves from Israel a little more than a month ago, similar to a ban on the import of Israeli-produced mutton, which was implemented last year. Israel retaliated against that ban by preventing the import of PA agricultural products, and the PA lifted its ban. The bans on Israeli imports were part of efforts to “disengage” the PA economy from that of Israel.

The ban had hurt the incomes of Israeli farmers, but it turned out that the real victim of the ban was the Palestinian consumer, who saw the price of fresh lamb and veal skyrocket in recent weeks, as Israeli-grown animals constitute a large part of the meat supply in the PA – as much as 90% of the market. The PA market for live sheep and calves is worth about NIS 700 million annually, with some 600 moshav families and 1,800 workers affected. Last week, hundreds of moshav growers of cattle affected by the ban blocked roads in northern Israel as part of a protest demanding that the government do something to end the PA ban.