Olive Industry – A ray of hope for Palestine and Israel

Around 90 villages from Palestine, Israel and Jordan have gathered to support Olive farmers, giving a new direction to Palestine-Israel relationship.

The conflict between Palestine and Israel is not easy to resolve. There have been numerous attempts for peace talks at international level, which have gone in vain due to the ups and downs in their political relations. On the other hand, the relationships between Jordan and Israel is excellent, which plays a vital role in regional stability. Being a neighbour to both Palestine and Israel, Jordan has a very strategic position to intervene and promote peace in this conflict.

The relations between the neighbouring countries are dramatically influenced by the relationship between the people from both sides. To the extent, the governments are urged to consider its people’s sentiment while making policies for neighbouring countries. Such relations between Palestinians and Israelis is quite negligible. According to a report, only 21% Israelis have a dialogue with Palestinians, whereas the dialogue from Palestinians is also insignificant, which is one of the reasons for the impaired relationship between them.

Since ancient times, trade has been a significant contributor in establishing the relationship between people, regardless of geographical, social and religious differences. Economic collaboration and trade relations can also play a significant role in improving the relationship between Palestinian and Israeli.

The rural economy of economically depressed Palestine — due to economic sanctions — depends mainly on agriculture, of which olive farming is the key. On the other hand, the developed olive oil industry of Israel depends upon olive oil import to meet the domestic needs. To establish a new relationship, organisations and enterprises between people of both sides, being the primary source of rural livelihood in both the countries, the olive industry creates an environment for collaboration and public interest. An agreement in the olive sector between the two countries can be beneficial for the people of both sides; however, due to poor relations, there is no such attempt at a government level.

Near East Foundation, an organisation working in this direction, has started a project called “Olive Oil Without Borders” . This project was launched in 2011, to resolve the conflicts and develop the trade relations between Palestinians and Israelis by strengthening the economic collaboration between Palestinians, Israelis and traders from olive industry. The project is now in its third phase. The purpose of this phase is to take opinions of Jordan’s people and create a robust and peaceful environment to accelerate the peace process, by establishing personal relations in the border area.

Around 90 villages from Palestine, Israel and Jordan have joined hands together under this project, which includes more than 3000 olive farmers, more than 25 oil mill owners, and about 50 businesses related to the olive industry. Apart from this, new businesses have also been established. According to a survey by Near East Foundation, around 20 new oil companies have been started between October 2016 and September 2017, of which seven are from Palestine, seven from Jordan and six from Israel. This project has added Rs. 170 crores to Palestinian economy since 2013.

The people from all the three countries have widely participated in project activities, which indicates that people are ready to collaborate and develop new relationships. It is noteworthy that irrespective of a poor relationship between Palestine and Israel, people from both the sides have developed economic relations with each other, which opens a new gate of possibilities for both countries. If relations from both sides continue to grow, the conflict will come to an end one day.

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