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Monday, November 11, 2013

While Egypt seals off Gaza, Israel meets with Gaza farmers to aid exports

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was closed yet again today, for the fourth consecutive day. Thousands of Gazans are stranded at the border.

Meanwhile, Israel not only allowed exports of spices from Gaza today, but recently it met with Gaza farmers to help them export fruit through Kerem Shalom.

From COGAT:
Last Thursday (24.10), a meeting took place at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai between fruit traders from Gaza and representatives of the Israel Fruit Growers Association. The meeting had been coordinated by the Gaza Liaison and Coordination Administration's agricultural officer Uri Madar and was attended by the outgoing Director-General of the Fruit Growers Association, Ilan Eshel, his successor Itzik Cohen, Palestinian Agriculture Ministry Coordinator Mr. Hani Ashkontana and Director of the Gaza Economic Affairs Branch, Lieutenant Colonel Shai Carmona. There are currently around 25 wholesale fruit merchants in Gaza who trade with Israel on a regular basis, while meetings with fruit buyers from Gaza take place once every six months.
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In the words of Mr. Hani Ashkontana, Coordinator of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry in Gaza: "The work is crucial to both our Ministries. Daily cooperation in all fields of commerce, and in particular in the agricultural sector, is important to both sides." The Palestinian Agriculture Coordinator went on to emphasize that: "Throughout the 15 years of cooperation with the Liaison and Coordination Administration's agricultural officer Uri Madar, the working relationship has always been sound. This is an interest shared by both parties, and our relations have always remained in tact, even during the difficult periods that have occurred over the years. These meetings are what will engender the hope for peace for both sides. I believe that trade and sound economic cooperation will herald better times than we have witnessed in the past."

After the opening address, traders were given the opportunity to ask questions and, as an integral part of the gathering, to exchange views about the obstacles standing in their way. The Palestinian participants thanked outgoing Director-General of the Fruit Growers Association, Ilan Eshel, and wished success to his successor, Itzik Cohen. "We and our counterparts in the Israeli farming community are just like family, relations between us are excellent. However, delays in inspecting containers at the crossings sometimes result in partial destruction of the merchandise, and this is not always received with understanding on the Israeli side", commented one of the Gazan fruit traders.

In response to the traders' complaints against the incidents and delays at the crossings, the Director of the Gaza Economic Affairs Branch, Lieutenant Colonel Shai Carmona, replied that "We are opening a call center in the Coordination and Liaison Administration exclusively for traders, which shall operate 24/7 and offer immediate assistance in solving any problem at the crossings." Lieutenant Colonel Shai Carmona emphasized that: "we attach great importance to these meetings".
Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, which hosted the meeting, is less than a mile from Gaza..