February 16, 2014

Israel exports one third of the world's Medjool dates, which are grown in the narrow strip of the West bank called Jordan Valley. In the region agriculture is flourishing, with almost all of Israel's grapes,peppers and herbs exports being grown there.

The European Union is Israel's number one trading partner and accounts for one third of its total trade. Europeans have over time become more wary of Israeli imports because of the land in which it is grown. Since 1967, Israel has occupied the land in the West Bank after seizing it from the Palestinians.

"They say that buying such produce is supporting the illegal confiscation and control of land and water resources that should be in Palestinian hands." Christa Case Bryant, csmonitor.com.

The protest of some Europeans choosing not to buy Israeli produce has taken a bite out of profits.  Farmers in the Jordan Valley reported losses totaling $29 million, or 14 percent of revenue. It also forced farmers to find new buyers in different markets like Russia where prices are 20 to 60 percent lower. Pepper exports to Western Europe have stopped completely, and grape exports are likely to be stopped completely because of consumer pressure.

A 2013 BBC public opinion poll showed the image of Israel is getting worse in Europe. Favor-ability ratings dropped 8 percent in both Spain and Germany, to the single digits. Even in Britain, the first European country to formally support the establishment of a Jewish state, only 14 percent of citizens have a positive view of Israel today.

 Israeli contracts with firms within the EU have been cancelled under pressure from Europeans. Losses could be in the billions for the future economy of the nation and effects will be felt throughout Israel. One of the largest protests by big business was a $200 billion Dutch pension firm who divested from the five top Israeli banks.
"I think there is a danger that one should not underestimate, which is the snowball effect that once someone starts, the others begin to adopt the same kind of policy," says Oded Eran, the Israeli ambassador to the EU from 2002 to 2007.
Germany, who still has deep connections with Israel because of the Holocaust, has signaled a change in the two nation's relationship.


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