Israeli Agriculture Ministry Now Says It Won’t Uproot Obama’s Gift Tree After All

Israeli President Shimon Peres watches at right as President Barack Obama plants a magnolia tree during a planting ceremony at the President s Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. Obama help plant a magnolia tree which is a descendant of an original magnolia tree from the White House grounds. Credit: AP

Israeli media Wednesday quoted Agriculture Ministry officials saying they planned to uproot the magnolia tree President Barack Obama planted along with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the garden of the latter’s official residence.

After those Hebrew reports were widely picked up internationally – including at TheBlaze – Agriculture officials are backing off, now saying they won’t uproot the tree for a pro forma health inspection after all.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

As of Wednesday evening, the Agriculture Ministry had confirmed that with the knowledge of all the parties involved, the tree had been planted in a special envelope so that it would not directly touch the ground. Workers from Plant Protection and Inspection Services would then be temporarily taking the tree away for surveillance, returning it after it was proved to be free of foreign plant lesions.

On Thursday, however, the Agriculture Ministry and the Office of the President of Israel stressed that the tree would not be being removed at all. Instead, Agriculture Ministry workers will be conducting all necessary tests in accordance with Israeli law with the garden of the president’s residence, without removing the tree from the place that it was planted, the offices said.

Officials did not say how the tree would be inspected for disease and pests without removing it from the ground.

As we reported Wednesday, the tree traveled with Obama on Air Force One, leaving not enough time for botanists to carry out the testing required of imported agricultural goods, including quarantine when necessary.

President Peres’s office had said the uprooting was decided upon ahead of time.

At the tree planting ceremony, Obama said, “It’s an incredible honor to be able to offer this tree to this beautiful garden with so much history with somebody who is a champion on behalf of the Israeli people and a champion on behalf of peace. And we’re very good gardeners. I’m sure this tree is going to do great.”

An Agriculture Ministry official had told Ynet on Wednesday (Blaze translation from Hebrew), “Because the American President Barack Obama brought the plant with him and because it is forbidden to bring plants into Israel from overseas without first passing inspection or quarantine – due to the fear of importing disease or harmful pests that could be found on the plant – the tree will thus be taken for tests.”

Tests that apparently can be conducted on the grounds of the President’s residence.