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In recent months, the police have stopped several attempts to smuggle cannabis and hashish from Israel to Jordan by Bedouin residents of the diaspora

The new export branch of the Bedouins in the Negev:

After more than 75 years during which there was a one-way traffic of cannabis and hashish in commercial quantities from the neighboring Arab countries (Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan) into the State of Israel, it seems that during the last year there has been a historic change in the trend with reports of thwarted attempts to smuggle cannabis and hashish out of the state Israel towards the Jordanian kingdom.

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Does this mean that Israel is indeed becoming a central hub for smuggling cannabis and hashish (and maybe drugs too) into the Arab world? And who are the main factors that led to this unprecedented situation?

A tradition of importing cannabis and hashish to Israel from neighboring Arab countries

Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, the hashish movement in the Levant region moved mainly along the Lebanon-Egypt axis: on the one hand, Lebanon, the largest producer of hashish in the Middle East, and on the other, Egypt, the largest consumer of hashish in the Arab world. The Land of Israel (or "Palestine" at the time) was mainly used as a transit station on the way to the large markets of Alexandria and Cairo.

However, after the establishment of the state and the consistent increase in the local population, Israel became a destination in itself for hashish smugglers from Lebanon - and not only from Lebanon.

Already in the fifties of the last century, the first reports began to be published about caravans of Bedouin camels carrying sacks full of hashish, making their way from Jordan to Israel. Starting in the sixties and seventies, Egypt also joined the celebration and became one of the main suppliers of hashish to the Jewish state.

In fact, it can be safely said that for decades in a row (and probably even more), inexhaustible quantities of cannabis, hashish and a variety of other substances arrived in Israel from the Kingdom of Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt (and probably also from Syria but in smaller numbers).

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In recent months, for the first time, reports began to be published about thwarting attempts to smuggle cannabis and hashish in the opposite direction - from Israel to Jordan.

These reports raise the question of whether "the bowl has turned" and for the first time since the establishment of the state, Israel is the one that becomes a major supplier of cannabis to the Arab world or at least to the Jordanian kingdom in particular.

phenomenon? Bedouins were caught with tens of kilograms of hashish and cannabis on the way to Jordan

About four months ago, on the first day of the new civil year (2024), we reported here on what was apparently the first time in history that the Israeli police thwarted the smuggling of a large quantity of cannabis originating in Israel and destined for a neighboring Arab country.

The incident took place at the Rabin border crossing in the city of Eilat, when a vehicle carrying two young Bedouin residents arrived at the scene and aroused the suspicion of the customs inspectors. During the search, dozens of packages of hashish weighing 10 kg with an estimated value of 200 thousand NIS were found in the sides of the vehicle, according to the police report.

Israeli cannabis that was recently caught trying to smuggle it from Israel to Jordan (Photo: Police Spokesperson)

Although this countermeasure operation did not receive almost any headlines in the mainstream media, it was an unprecedented incident that marked a worrisome change of trend from the point of view of the police and the army, since if these events continue, there is no telling how this phenomenon will develop and what its consequences will be.

And here, about three weeks ago, on the weekend between March 15th and 16th, less than four months since the previous report, the Israel Police reported foiling another smuggling attempt from Israel to Jordan - this time on an even larger scale - five times the previous smuggling attempt caught.

It happened in Kibbutz Hamadia in the Beit Shan Valley. Soldiers of the YGL unit (border unit) spotted a Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep that aroused their suspicion. After the soldiers announced to the jeep passengers to stop, the passengers, who in this case were also two young men from the Bedouin diaspora in the Negev, began to drive fast in an attempt to escape from the security forces.

At the end of a chase that also included setting up improvised barriers, the two were arrested. During a search of their vehicle, no less than 55 kg of hashish and cannabis with an estimated value of approximately NIS 1.5 million were found.

If the foiling of the cannabis smuggling attempt from Israel to Jordan at the beginning of the year was an unusual and unclear event, then the foiling of the second smuggling attempt in the Beit Shean area was probably the final stamp: it is no longer an isolated incident but a phenomenon.

Of course, it is very likely to assume that apart from these pair of publicized failures, there were at least a few other smuggling attempts that were caught and not reported about them, and certainly even more smugglings that were not caught at all, so that it can be cautiously estimated that blue-and-white cannabis is already circulating these days in Amman's black market and being inhaled into their lungs of the Arabs of the Middle East.

The drop in cannabis prices in Israel

The reversal of the historical trend that led to the fact that for the first time Israel is the one supplying cannabis and hashish to a neighboring Arab country and not the other way around, can be attributed to at least two important factors: the first is related to the state of the cannabis market in Israel and the second to the state of the drug market in the Jordanian neighbor.

Regarding the situation in Israel, it is impossible to ignore the revolution that the local cannabis market has undergone in the last decade and a half. If in 2010 the country suffered from an unprecedented drought that resulted in extreme prices of 100-120 NIS per gram of cannabis (and sometimes even more), then today, in 2024, the situation is completely different.

The medical cannabis industry has been growing, with more than 135,000 patients (as of April 2024) eligible for more than 5 tons of legal cannabis on a monthly basis. According to most estimates, at least a significant part of this cannabis probably flows into the black market .

Along with this, of course, there is also a creative and thriving black market that offers a wide variety of end products in deliveries to the customer's home. The supply of cannabis to the black market in Israel mostly comes from cannabis greenhouses, which are mainly concentrated in the Negev region , alongside growing apartments scattered throughout the country.

One of the positive products of this huge supply of cannabis in Israel, at least from the point of view of the average Israeli cannabis consumer, is the sharp drop in price as a result of this change, to prices of no more than NIS 50 to 60 per gram and even much less than that. This is a cut of at least half the price.

But on the part of those who are responsible for a considerable part of this abundance, the Bedouin in the Negev, this is of course not positive news but rather an ever-increasing reduction in the share of profits to which they have become accustomed.

The drug conflict between Jordan and Syria

If these are not reasons that explain well enough the new phenomenon of cannabis exports from Israel to Arab countries, then what is happening in neighboring Syria may also affect the phenomenon.

The fact that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has in recent years become the leading country in the world in the production and smuggling of Captagon bullets - the stimulant drug of ISIS that, according to some claims, was also used by Hamas terrorists in the October 7 massacre - has led to the fact that the Kingdom of Jordan has significantly increased security measures on the border its northern and managed "along the way" also to bring about a drastic decrease in the amount of smuggling, which of course includes not only Captagon but also quite a bit of hashish and cannabis.

In other words, the bottom line is that today it is much less profitable to sell cannabis in Israel compared to years past, the illegal cannabis growers in Israel are surely looking for someone who will pay a little more for their goods, and the rate of importation of cannabis from Syria and Lebanon to Jordan itself or on the way to Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United The Emirates and the rest of their neighbors, decreased.

This means that it is certainly possible that the Bedouin in Israel, who have always been a major player in the local cannabis market and in recent years have probably become the leading cannabis producers on the black market, decided to take the initiative and take advantage of the good connections they already have with the Bedouin population in Jordan, to fill the vacuum that has been created.

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In response to Cannabis magazine's request, the Israeli police preferred not to go into too much detail regarding the issue of attempts to smuggle cannabis and hashish from Israel to the Kingdom of Jordan, but did give a response to the buyer seeking to reduce the importance of the cases, according to which "it is not a phenomenon but a number of incidents of drug smuggling attempts that have recently been caught and treated in Israel" .

As can be seen from the response above, the police used the term "number of incidents", but refused to specify the exact number of thwarted smuggling attempts (despite an explicit request in this regard). The Jordanian police also refused to address repeated inquiries from Cannabis Magazine on the subject.

On the other hand, from the words of a source of Cannabis magazine, who has been living in Amman, the capital of Jordan, for the past few years, who of course wished to remain anonymous, it is evident that indeed the Jordanian cannabis (and especially hashish) market has undergone significant changes in recent years.

"The price of hashish has almost doubled," he notes, and gives an example: "If in 2020 you could buy 10 grams of hashish for 30 dinars (about 150 NIS), today the price will be around 50 dinars (about 250 NIS) h). In general, hashish is much less common than before, and dried flowers of cannabis are very difficult to obtain here."

Despite the described increase in the price of hashish on the black market in Jordan, it is evident that it is still a relatively low end price, so it is very doubtful whether Israeli criminals will endanger themselves in order to smuggle cannabis and hashish intended for marketing in Jordan. The obvious conclusion from this is that the recent seizures of the smuggling attempts from Israel to Jordan were perhaps intended for the cannabis markets in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as mentioned, which is a completely different story.

This conclusion also corresponds with open conjectures of various intelligence sources, as well as a statement given several years ago by Anwar Trawana, head of the narcotics department of the Jordan Police, who said that 95% of the illegal drugs that arrive in Jordan are actually intended

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