Military officials repeatedly declare their commitment to enabling Palestinian farmers in the West Bank to harvest “until the very last olive.” However, a new information sheet published by Yesh Din details how restricting Palestinian farmers’ access to their lands, the , inadequate conduct of the military and police, together with violent offenses committed by Israeli civilians, severely damage the ability of Palestinian farmers to harvest their olives and realize their property rights.
The harvest season is one of the most important periods for the Palestinian economy. Around half of the Palestinian agricultural lands that are cultivated in the West Bank are home to olive groves. As of 2016, between 80,000 and 100,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank rely on the cultivation of olives and production of olive oil for their primary or secondary incomes.
One of the additional restrictions that limits the ability of Palestinians to harvest their groves is the permit regime, which provides temporary and restricted access to Palestinians interested in cultivating their land adjacent to settlements. These permits are supposed to protect the property rights of the landowners, however the permit approval process tends to be protracted, and in many cases the permits issued –for only a few days – are insufficient and make it difficult for the farmers to harvest the olives in the short span of time they have been allotted. In addition, in many cases Israeli civilians take advantage of the fact that landowners are prevented from accessing their land to vandalize trees or steal olives.
Another difficulty Palestinian farmers face is direct interference in their harvest by Israeli civilians that includes violence, harassment, prevention of access and physical assault. These are all criminal offenses. Such incidents put the military forces located in the territories or summoned there as a result of a confrontation to the test, as they are responsible for preventing damage while doing everything possible to prevent any obstruction to the harvesting work.