RAMALLAH, May 20 (JMCC) – Palestinians are planning to step up their boycott of Israeli products being sold in the occupied West Bank, said an official on Wednesday.
Stage two of the ban on selling or buying Israeli settlement products could extend to products made in Israel, said agriculture minister Ismail Deik, since Israel largely prevents Palestinian products from being sold in its stores.
“We have developed a plan to increase the share of Palestinian produce in the local market and it is clear that Israeli products, including settlement products, take a great share,” Deik said at a Ramallah press conference.
“At the same time, Israel refuses our produce in its markets,” he continued. “So imagine if we banned Israeli produce, such as dairy and meat products, or raised the taxes that are levied on them?”
The government estimates that two billion dollars of Israeli goods are sold in the Palestinian market annually, as compared to five million dollars worth of Palestinian products sold in Israel.
It began its campaign by banning the sale of products made in Israeli settlements from Palestinian stores. Palestinians estimate that as much as $500 million in goods produced in Israeli settlements are sold in the Palestinian market every year.
This week, workers went house-to-house in the West Bank distributing a booklet listing the names of products produced in Israeli settlements.
Israeli settlers say they are feeling the pressure, with stores and workshops standing idle. On Tuesday, the Yesha Council, a settler advocacy group, called on Israel to close its ports to Palestinian imports and exports until the boycott is called off.
Palestinians have also refused to carry out direct negotiations with Israel as long as it continues settlement construction in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967.
STOPPING SETTLEMENT LABOR
The campaign against settlements is continuing by banning Palestinian labor in settlements, with the government offering alternative employment, said Deik. Currently, the ministry of agriculture is focusing on finding other work for laborers in the Jordan Valley agricultural settlements.
“The government is able to absorb many of the Palestinian professionals working in the settlements in small Palestinian farms,” said Deik. “We have a comprehensive plan to employ 6,500 workers that are working in the agricultural settlements at a cost of $18 million, as well as the chance to accommodate 6,000 others.”
The greatest challenge that Palestinians face is the scarcity of land, said the minister. Settlements exploit precious land in the West Bank that could be used by Palestinians.
He said that settlement farms plant their produce on some 200,000 dunams in the West Bank, as compared to 50,000 dunams planted by Palestinians.
Palestinian officials announced recently that employment in settlements has already decreased by eight percent since the start of the boycott earlier this year.