Agricultural summit marks30 years of peace with Egypt

Simchon: Important for Israel to cooperate with the PA... If something happens there agriculturally, it affects us also.

wheat field 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
wheat field 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
The agriculture ministers of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority will meet Monday in Rome at a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference to discuss plans to increase cooperation. Thirty years of peace between Israel and Egypt are being marked by the meeting in Rome, attended by representatives of the two countries and Palestinian officials. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the meeting was a very good opportunity to meet with colleagues about the important issues regarding agriculture concerning Israel and the PA. "It is important for Israel to cooperate with the PA because we are neighbors. If something happens there agriculturally, it affects us also," Simchon said. Last year, Israel and the PA coordinated efforts to combat the spread of bird flu which originated in Egypt, spread to the Gaza Strip, and affected many farms in southern Israel. "In agriculture there are no limits," Simchon said, adding, "If we want to ensure the public health of everyone, we have to maintain a good relationship with the Palestinian Authority. If we have a relationship but we don't always work to improve it, it's as if we did nothing at all." Simchon points to 2007 as an excellent example of how important cooperation can be, because of the shmita year in which Jews do not farm and they let the land rest, which began in September. The olive harvest in the Palestinian territories is large every year, but will be especially important this coming year, because these olives will be more extensively used by Jews. An example of help supplied to the PA by the FAO is their work regarding the Palestinians' olive harvest. Aides go in and guide the Palestinian farmers through the harvesting and marketing of the product. Pesticides are also supplied to help with flies, which can be devastating to the harvest if they are not controlled. Another recent initiative was help with veterinary issues. Vaccinations were given to 200,000 animals to stem disease. It is very important for Israel to allow such initiatives, because they directly affect Israel, says Simchon. "If there's disease in the PA, they are so close it is also in our own interest to help," said Simchon. "We all lose if we don't cooperate with each other." In Rome, plans will be set for similar initiatives. Egypt's lasting peace with Israel since Sadat's visit 30 years ago will be an important negotiating tool as the country will act as a intermediary between Israel and the PA.