The Palestinians have had to freeze their application to become a member state of the International Olive Council due to opposition by Germany and Britain.
According to European diplomatic sources, German and British representatives claimed that letting the Palestinians join the council could sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian talks now taking place under American auspices. The talks’ resumption was conditioned on Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a Palestinian promise not to try to join various UN organizations, and not address the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Palestinian application, which was prepared this summer by the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry in Ramallah in the name of the State of Palestine, was supposed to be voted on at an olive council meeting in Madrid this week.
The European Union’s member states are represented on the olive council by a single joint delegation, so if these states are unable to reach a consensus on a given issue, the rule is that the EU delegation must abstain from voting.
The membership would give the Palestinians access to technical assistance in an industry vital to their economy.
According to data collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, almost 10,000 Palestinian olive trees and saplings in the West Bank have been uprooted or damaged in direct attacks by Israelis since the start of 2013, up from about 8,500 in 2012.
The racist settler attacks against the ancient olive trees, which Palestinians see as a symbol of their connection to the land, spike across the West Bank during olive harvesting season each year.
Local human rights groups allege that more than 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.