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Bethlehem governor bans entry of Israeli watermelons

June 26, 2014 9:17 P.M. (Updated: June 26, 2014 9:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The governor of Bethlehem Jibrin al-Bakri on Wednesday gave a directive to ban the entry of watermelons from Israel into Bethlehem markets.

In a statement, al-Bakri said that the decision is in line with the instructions of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas seeking to protect Palestinian farmers and Palestinian national products.

The local decision follows a controversy in early June, when the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture banned the import of Palestinian agricultural products after its Palestinian counterpart banned the import of Israeli watermelons in order to product the local industry.

The issue was resolved quickly after Palestinian authorities backed down on the watermelon ban, leading Israel to remove its own prohibition.

Only one-third of the watermelons sold in the Palestinian market are from Palestinian farmers, with the rest apparently being primarily from Israeli farmers, assistant undersecretary for administrative and economic affairs at the ministry Ali Ghayyatha told Ma'an.

Israel's control over all access points in and out of the West Bank means that Israel maintains almost complete control over Palestinian imports and exports.

The Palestinian domestic market, meanwhile, remains captive to Israeli products, making domestic distribution for Palestinian companies difficult as well.

A World Bank report released in October said that Israel's control over Area C -- more than 60 percent of the West Bank -- deprives the Palestinian economy of an estimated $3.4 billion a year, equivalent to some 35 percent of the Palestinian gross domestic product in 2011.
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