RAMALLAH, Apr. 6 (JMCC) - The Palestinian Authority
initiative to purge its markets of Israeli settlement
products is well underway.
Yet, a recent report by renowned journalist Amira Hass shows how such a goal may face severe obstacles, not only in Israel
but also among Palestinian consumers, when finding alternatives of equal quality is not always so simple.
The Ramallah government ruled by law that offenders could be punished, including contractors who buy gravel and asphalt from Israeli-owned West Bank quarries. Building materials are confiscated and heavy fines are imposed on those who are caught.
Buy from quarries in Israel, say contractors, quoting the Palestinian officials to whom they complained. However, this solution raises the cost of transportation and that of the final product and requires considerable maneuvering: Israel forbids its quarries in Israel proper to sell directly to a Palestinian contractor.
Several Palestinian contractors, who prefer anonymity, say construction and the paving of roads are being harmed. They mention a road in the Jericho area that was financed by USAID, which has high standards. The part that was paved with Palestinian gravel and asphalt was judged defective, and the contractor had to peel back 1.5 km. and repave it. The road section paved with Israeli raw materials continues to sparkle.
Israeli stone quarries in the parts of the occupied West Bank
designated as 'Area C'--under full Israeli administrative and security control--may be deemed as 'pillaging' Palestinian resources.
A case is currently being heard in the Israeli High Court concerning the operation of Israeli quarries inside the West Bank. Yesh Din (Volunteers for Human Rights) petitioned the court to freeze operations until they make a final ruling, expected sometime in April.
In effect, says Giller, the Civil Administration won't grant permits to new Israeli quarries or for expanding existing ones and is renewing quarry permits for 2010 only for areas that had permits in 2009. (The quarrying is carried out in a limited area of the master plan, so as not to pay high municipal property taxes on the entire area).
Meanwhile, output has not declined, says Giller, and Palestinian buyers have not yet stopped buying Israeli products. Palestinian contractors and Israeli quarry owners find themselves in an unofficial coalition of deal-makers to get around the prohibitions and restrictions. But neither the contractors nor the quarry owners will be able to continue to outsmart the prohibitions forever.
The Palestinian Authority has petitioned Israel for the right to construct two new stone quarries inside the West Bank but so far have been denied. Read
more about this story at Haaretz