Gaza strawberry sales in the West Bank renewed only in early January, following interventions by Gisha
As they do every year, Gaza strawberry farmers prepared to sell significant amounts of strawberries abroad and in the West Bank during the winter of 2015-2016. But, this year, the Israeli authorities in charge of produce sales from Gaza announced that for mysterious reasons 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 demanding the immediate renewal of strawberry sales in the West Bank. In its letters, Gisha noted that according to Ministry of Agriculture (Hebrew) and COGAT (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 Ministry of Agriculture requirements regarding phytosanitary risks and contaminant transmission, and therefore 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 working relations and economic ties between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and help Gaza’s economy and the civilian population. As such, allowing strawberry sales conforms with Israel’s interests – as Israeli officials themselves have declared on more than one occasion.
Gisha implored the authorities to renew strawberry sales before the season ends and the matter becomes irrelevant.
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 Agricultural in updating the permit to sell strawberries, whereas COGAT had approved it in theory. The Ministry of Agriculture did not respond.