Shtayyeh faces backlash from Palestinian merchants over Israeli imports

PA premier says he won’t backtrack on “economic disengagement” from Israel.

Cow illustrative (photo credit: KIM HANSEN/WIKIPEDIA)
Cow illustrative
(photo credit: KIM HANSEN/WIKIPEDIA)
Palestinian meat merchants in the West Bank announced on Saturday a series of measures to protest Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s decision to stop importing calves from Israel.
The decision, announced earlier this month, has caused severe damage to Palestinian merchants and consumers, according to the merchants, who are urging Shtayyeh to immediately rescind the decision.
More than 90% of the beef calves consumed in the West Bank come from Israel.
Shtayyeh’s move is in the context of his plan for “economic disengagement” from Israel. As part of this plan, the PA government earlier this year also stopped referring Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals.
“Shtayyeh’s decision was taken at the request of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture without any previous study and without our knowledge,” said Omar al-Nabali, a representative of the Palestinian Butcher Stores union. “This decision has negatively impacted many Palestinians, including farmers and butchers. We hold the Agriculture Ministry fully responsible for this crisis.”
He said that thousands of Palestinian families in the West Bank have lost their sole source of income as a result of the decision to stop importing calves from Israel.
Noting that the PA does not have control over the border crossings with the West Bank, al-Nabali said it is impossible for the Palestinians to import livestock from any country other than Israel.
The union announced a strike of all butcher shops and slaughterhouses in the West Bank on Monday to demand that the PA government reverse its decision. Palestinian meat merchants are also expected to demonstrate in front of the offices of the PA prime minister in Ramallah on Monday.
Palestinian farmers said that Shtayyeh’s decision serves the interests of a small number of businessmen and causes tremendous damage to the meat industry in the West Bank. The PA government, they claimed, is seeking to enhance the monopoly of a limited number of importers over the livestock industry in the West Bank.
According to Palestinians, the ban has already raised the price of beef in the West Bank by 20% and increased the smuggling of calves from Israel.
Israeli farmers are also protesting Shtayyeh’s ban, saying it is costing them heavy financial losses. The farmers say they are now being forced to continue feeding the calves, which are imported from abroad, beyond the usual schedule. The cost of feeding a calf is estimated at approximately $100 a month.
Channel 11 reported on Friday that Israel was considering taking a number of punitive measures against the PA in response to the ban on importing calves. The measures include, among other things, banning the entry of international aid to the West Bank and preventing the export of Palestinian olive oil and dates to the Arab countries, the report said.
On Friday, Shtayyeh said he was determined to pursue his plan of “gradual economic disengagement” from Israel, notwithstanding the protests by the Palestinian farmers and meat merchants.
“Israel must pay a price for its occupation,” he said at a West Bank rally for “Palestinian popular resistance.”
Shtayyeh added that “in light of the current political stalemate, it’s impossible to surrender to the status quo imposed by the occupation.” The plan, he explained, aims to “strengthen the Palestinian national product and dispense of Israeli products.”
Shtayyeh pointed out that his government has stopped referring Palestinians to Israeli hospitals as part of the plan. The medical referrals, he said, cost the PA treasury more than NIS 500 billion in 2018.
Although some senior PA officials are said to have privately criticized Shtayyeh’s decision to ban the import of calves from Israel, Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of the ruling Fatah faction, said on Saturday that he supports the boycott of Israeli products.
In an interview with the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station, al-Aloul accused Israel of “sucking the blood and resources of the Palestinian people.”
He also accused Israel of sending its bad goods to the Palestinians, “whom it considers a garbage dump for its surplus goods.” This, he added, “is clear evidence of the importance of boycotting Israeli goods.”