Gaza strawberry sales in the West Bank renewed only in early January, after communications from Gisha
As they do every year, Gaza strawberry growers prepared to sell significant amounts of strawberries abroad and in the West Bank during the winter of 2015-2016. But for some mysterious reason, this year, the Israeli authorities in charge of produce sales from Gaza announced that no Gaza strawberries could be sold in the West Bank.
Following these reports, Gisha wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture (Hebrew) and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) (Hebrew), asking for the reason for the refusal and the immediate renewal of strawberry sales in the West Bank. In its letters, Gisha noted that according to the Ministry of Agriculture (Hebrew) and COGAT’s (Hebrew) operating procedures, strawberries are included in the list of Gaza produce cleared for sale in the West Bank, and the prohibition, hence, contradicts operating procedures. Moreover, the fact that strawberries are included in the list indicates that this type of produce has met the Ministry of Agriculture’s requirements regarding phytosanitary risks and contaminant transmission, and there is no pertinent reason to deny the sale of strawberries.
Gisha also noted that the sale of strawberries, like all other agricultural products, is important not only for Gaza’s economy and farming community, but also for the economy of the West Bank and consumers there. Such sales reinforce relationships and economic ties between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, thus helping to contribute to regional stability. As such, allowing strawberry sales is a paramount Israeli interest – as Israel itself declared on more than one occasion.
Gisha implored the authorities to renew strawberry sales before the season ends and the matter becomes moot.
Following this, on January 12, 2016, COGAT announced on its Facebook page (in English only) that strawberry sales from Gaza to the West Bank have been renewed, but under a restrictive cap of 150 tons per month – a cap that does not apply to other agricultural products. On January 13, 2016, COGAT responded to Gisha (Hebrew), saying that the delay had been the result of a delay on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture in updating the permit to sell strawberries, whereas COGAT had already approved it in theory. The Ministry of Agriculture did not respond.