Food embargo leads to high-level Israeli-Palestinian talks
Israel's agriculture minister will meet with his Palestinian counterpart on Sunday, August 19, in a bid to end a row that is threatening the distribution of food in the region, Israeli public radio announced.
Palestinian Agriculture Minister Hikmat Zaid on Thursday announced an embargo on a wide list of agricultural products from Israel in response to a 10-month blockade on Palestinian movement into Israel.
A senior Israeli agriculture official on Saturday then warned consumers to be wary of Palestinian goods that were smuggled on to the Israeli market, saying a lot of it was contaminated.
With the feud threatening the distribution of food in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the radio said Saturday that Israel's Agricultural Minister, Shalom Simhon, would meet with Zaid in Beit Dagan, near Tel Aviv, on Sunday.
The talks will be the highest-level political meeting between Israel and the Palestinians since Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat in Cairo in mid-July. Political dialogue after that meeting stalled because of the ongoing violence from the Palestinians intifada, or uprising, that has claimed 720 lives since it began nearly 11 months ago.
Shortly before the Simhon-Zaid meeting was announced, Roy Klieger, who is health and safety chief in Israel's agricultural ministry, said large quantities of agricultural produce had been illegally smuggled into Israel since the intifada began. He said some of this food was contaminated.
"During the first quarter of this year a million eggs—including a large number infected with salmonel—and 53 tons of meat, some spoiled, have reached our shelves," Klieger said. "Israelis should be careful and buy goods that bear the label of large domestic distribution firms."
Hikmat Zaid said on Thursday the Palestinian embargo would cover, among other products, bananas, melons, mangoes, apples, chickens, frozen beef and all milk products except milk itself. Zeid said the ban would remain in place until the roadblocks were lifted to allow the free movement of agricultural goods and vital veterinary services. He said restriction on the movement of vets could encourage the spread of disease among Palestinian livestock.
Peres on August 12 expressed his sympathy for the Palestinians and said the Israeli blockade should be lifted. "It is impossible to accept that three million people should have lived for 10 months under a situation of a (military and economic) blockade," Peres said. "What kind of autonomy do Palestinians have when we have our hand on all the taps?"
Israel exports around 11,000 tons of fruit and vegetables every month to the Palestinian territories, mostly to the Gaza Strip in the south. The Palestinians export 7,000 tons, according to the Israeli agriculture ministry. ― (AFP, Jerusalem)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)