Palestinians ban sale of Israeli settlement goods

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday signed a law banning Palestinians from working in Israeli settlements and selling settlement goods, with violators facing up to five years in prison and stiff fines.

The law marks the Palestinians' most determined campaign against the settlements Israel has built on lands they want for a state. The Palestinians vehemently oppose the settlements but many rely on them for work.

Nearly half a million Israelis live on war-won land claimed by the Palestinians, including nearly 300,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements in the West Bank. Israel has resisted U.S. demands for a settlement freeze, agreeing only to a temporary slowdown.

Palestinian government officials estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 Palestinians work in settlements and that between $200 million and $500 million worth of settlement goods are sold to Palestinians in the West Bank every year.

In recent months, Palestinian security forces began intercepting and confiscating shipments of settlement goods to Palestinian businesses. Products range from agricultural goods to cosmetics.

As part of the campaign, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tossed settlement products into a bonfire.

Under the new law, which is to go into effect next week, those distributing or selling settlement products face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $14,000, said Abbas' legal adviser, Hassan al-Ouri.

The law also bans work in settlements, with violators facing between one and five years in prison, al-Ouri said.

It was not immediately clear whether the law would only apply to those seeking employment in settlements in the future or also to those currently working there. In March, Palestinian Economics Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh said the Palestinian Authority would try to find alternatives for those currently working in settlements but suggested they would not face punishment.

Abu Libdeh could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.