Egyptian, Jordanian oppositions protest trade with Israel

Figures published recently indicate a 19% increase in Israeli exports to Arab countries.

egyptian boycott israel  (photo credit: AP)
egyptian boycott israel
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's increasing trade within the Middle East has aroused a wave of criticism in Egypt and Jordan, where opposition groups have protested the expanding economic cooperation. Figures published recently by the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute indicate a 19 percent increase in Israeli industrial exports to Arab countries between January and September 2006, compared with the same period in 2005. According to the institute's figures, Israeli industrial exports to Egypt have grown by 36% and exports to Jordan have increased by 12.5% this year. Financial experts in Jordan argue that the scale of trade between the Hashemite Kingdom and Israel is much larger than the numbers given by official authorities. The figures published by the Jordanian Bureau of Statistics show that trade between Israel and Jordan in the first 10 months of 2006 reached between $210 million and nearly $300m. Israeli exports constitute $155m., the highest figure since the peace agreement between the two countries in 1994, and a large percentage of Israel's overall exports to Arab nations totalling $206m. Ibrahim Alloush, a Jordanian financial expert, said in an interview with Al Jazeera Web site that by publishing the trade figures the Jordanian government was trying to persuade its citizens to accept the economic relations with Israel as natural. Alloush accused Jordan of assisting Israel throughout the years to avoid the Arab economic boycott by providing Israel with a platform to transfer goods of Israeli origin to other Arab countries, especially the Gulf States after repacking in Cyprus and Turkey. The situation in Egypt is no different and the language is similar. Rashid Mohammed Rashid, Egyptian minister of industry and foreign trade, found himself in the middle of a heated debate at a recent meeting of the Industry and Energy Committee of the Egyptian parliament. The minister was accused by opposition members of assisting Israel to export its products to Arab countries by issuing forged certificates of origin to certify they are made in Egypt. Opposition parliament member Mohammed Aladli asked the minister about the reasons for the significant growth in Egyptian imports from Israel, based on the Israeli Export Institute figures. The minister explained that Egypt and Israel signed two import agreements, one of which is the direct trade agreement between the two countries that allows entry of Israeli goods, and in 2006 totalled $11.4m. Rashid dismissed the allegations that 270 Israeli investors work in Egypt and revealed that Israel takes 58th place in the list of countries exporting to Egypt. Other countries in the area that Israel does business with are Tunisia, Morroco and Iraq. Export to Tunisia were down by 10% to $1.5m., while exports to Morroco were down by 16% to $8.4m. Exports to Iraq include supplies for the US Army. According to the Institute, 27 Israeli companies work in Iraq - mostly in communications, supplies and simple metals.