TEL AVIV – The war in Syria has meant that Israel has become the main shipping route between Europe and the Arab world, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Because the transit route through Israel is not noted on the goods, it is highly likely that the Saudi royal family is unknowingly eating Turkish dates that arrived in Riyadh by way of Israel.
Last year some 13,000 trucks transporting products from Turkey and Bulgaria to other countries in the region passed through Israel, marking an increase of more than 25%.
The Sheikh Hussein border crossing between Israel and Jordon is gearing up to expand its freight terminal next month to allow even more trucks to pass through. Until now, trucks would drive through Syria in order to arrive at destinations in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Jordan. The civil war in Syria has meant that the shipments have been rerouted either via ferry to the port of Haifa or overland through the border with Jordan.
Speaking from the Sheikh Hussein border crossing Sunday, Israel’s Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) said that the crossing “is important for international trade and links the West with the East.”
“I believe that widening the freight crossing will contribute a great deal to strengthening relations between Israel and its neighbors, including Turkey, and also with more distant Arab countries,” Kara added.
Israel collects duties on each truck that enters and exits the country, but this is still a much cheaper option for exporters than the shipping route from Europe to Egypt.
Rafi Shamir, a spokesman for Kara’s ministry, said that while Turkey was not actively promoting the Israeli route, it also did nothing to stop it.
Shamir said that the Israel-Jordan route is critical for Israel. First, because of the taxes levied on the goods. Second, because it proves to both European and Arab countries that Israel provides the best and most secure route for exports.
Shamir noted that even if the war in Syria were to end tomorrow, the last few years “will give exporters a reason to continue to work through Israel, because they know it is a route that is secure and works well.”