Palestinian exports to Israel shot up from $450 million in 2007 to $640 million in 2012, according to figures published last week [June 17] by the Bank of Israel Research Department.
And while these figures represent a 42% increase, the amounts involved account for but a small percentage of the total [foreign] trade of Israel. Be that as it may, the sales to the Israeli market are of the highest importance to the Palestinian economy, as 81% of its exports are channeled to Israel.
The importance of the Palestinian exports to Israel was manifest at the Palestinian Products Exhibition held last week [June 16-18] in Upper Nazareth at the initiative of the Peres Center for Peace. The organizers of the exhibition were in doubt whether they should hold the event at this time, given the tense security situation in the West Bank following the kidnapping of the boys in the Etzion settlement bloc. However, they eventually decided to hold it nevertheless.
Building stones make up half of exports to Israel
Manufacturers representing 35 West Bank companies exhibited at the trade fair. (There are no exports from Gaza because of the Israeli ban.) A visit to the exhibition depicts an interesting picture of the relationship between the Israeli market and the Palestinian manufacturers.
According to estimates, quarry building stones and concrete products make up about half of the Palestinian exports to Israel. This can be primarily attributed to the quality of the Palestinian building stone, which is considered first-class by international standards. Seven Palestinian companies marketing stone and marble products exhibited at the exhibition in Nazareth.
Another notable sector of Palestinian exports is the food industry, whose products are targeted first and foremost at the Arab community in Israel. A sales agent of the Qasrawi Snack Factory recounted at the event that every day, two trucks loaded with snacks similar to Beasley, Bamba and the like were dispatched on their way to Israel. These replacement products are sold for just 1 to 1.5 Israeli shekels [30 to 44 cents] per pack in Arab stores in the country — a significantly lower price than that of the original brand.
Fear has its price: 3,000 shekels
Other food brands manufactured in the West Bank that have gained a foothold in the Israeli market are the Al-Arad Halva, which is offered for sale at the Jerusalem Mahane Yehuda market, among other places, as well as the Al-jamal Tahini.
In the textile sector, on the other hand, clothes manufactured in the West Bank are frequently labeled as "Made in Israel" for fear of losing customers.
The most interesting aspect concerns the Palestinian furniture industry. At the western entrance to Nablus, nearly 100 furniture stores are scattered. According to one of the furniture manufacturers in the city, a living room sofa that he sells in Nablus for 3,000 shekels [about $870] is offered for sale in Israel at double the price, and is sometimes marketed under an Italian label. It turns out that in this case, the fear of Israeli customers apprehensive of traveling to Nablus has its price — 3,000 shekels.
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