Following reports that the Agriculture Ministry team intend to dig up the magnolia tree that US President Barack Obama brought to President Shimon Peres as a gift on Wednesday, the office stressed that it was doing its utmost to prevent the passage of new plant diseases into the country.
"Inspectors of the Plant Protection and Inspection Services at the Agriculture Ministry invest great efforts into preventing the penetration of new lesions that do not exist in Israel that are likely to cause damage to agriculture and plants in Israel," a statement from the Agriculture Ministry said.
Obama had brought the tree with him from America, and he and Peres planted it together in the garden at the president's residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon.
The Agriculture Ministry was in contact with Beit HaNassi about the tree, and all of the parties involved agreed that the tree should be planted within a special envelope for the time being, rather than directly into the ground, the ministry said. This will enable the ministry to thoroughly examine the tree, after which it will return the plant to the president's garden, the office added.