We live in a tough region. It`s not easy to explain to Israel and to the IDF in particular that on the one hand their firing Qasam rockets and digging tunnels for terrorist purposes, and on the other hand, your position”, explained the Gaza Liaison and Coordination Administration`s agricultural officer Uri Madar. “We must utilize the current period of calm in order for each side to get to know the
Date: 03.11.13 Author: Jonathan Ben-Ami
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.
The import of fruit into Gaza constitutes a significant component within the local economy. So far this year, approximately 50 thousand tons of fruit has been imported, a figure which is expected to grow by around another 55 thousand tons before the end of the year (comprising mainly of dates and citrus fruits). Both parties feel that it’s important to strengthen their trade relations. The coordination work undertaken by the agricultural officer, Uri Madar, opposite his Palestinian counterpart, is an important part of the integrative system which operates as one in order to cultivate this branch of the economy. The success of the trader and the success of the farmer strengthen the entire Gazan economy.
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”.