After reaching an agreement with MK Dov Lipman that an Israeli ban on foie gras trade would prohibit sales of the product in restaurants, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch lifted their appeal against the Knesset member’s disputed bill on Thursday.

Lipman’s original bill called for the prohibition of both the import and trade of foie gras – a liver product that is generated by forcefeeding ducks and geese – in the Israeli market, and received the initial approval of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on June 9. The practice of producing the delicacy was banned in Israel about a decade ago when the High Court of Justice deemed it abusive, but the import and sale of the product remained legal.

Just two days after the Ministerial Committee’s approval, and the night before the bill was scheduled to undergo its first Knesset reading, Aharonovitch filed an appeal against the bill’s passage on behalf of Shamir.

Although Shamir had said he supported the principles of the bill, he stressed that he feared that implementing such legislation could violate international trade agreements and prompt foie gras-producing countries like Hungary and France to respond with sanctions against Israel. He expressed additional concern that retaliatory moves could potentially focus on kosher food bans, as kashrut practices have been under negative scrutiny by certain European animal rights groups.

On June 16, Shamir and Aharonovitch announced that they would be willing to remove their appeal on the condition that the bill only prohibit trade – and not the import – of foie gras. In response, Lipman had said he could not accept such a proposal as it was still unclear whether personal imports would be able to be sold or would be restricted to home use.

On June 26, activists from Anonymous for Animal Rights – the group responsible for drafting the bill with Lipman – protested outside Shamir’s home in Savyon.

If passed by the Knesset, the new agreement would prohibit only the trade and not the import of the product, but no one would be able to make money on the personal import of the item into Israel, according to the agriculture minister’s spokesman.

This ban would include sales to restaurants, but would still allow an individual person to order foie gras online – as to not violate international trade agreements, the spokesman said. Essentially, however, this decision would limit the possibility of eating foie gras in Israel anyway, he added.

“The new format enables the law to promote its humane and fitting purpose of preventing cruelty to animals but without damaging exports and international trade agreements, and avoiding the creation of a dangerous precedent on the subject of kosher slaughter,” Shamir and Aharonovitch said in a joint statement.

The new formula matches the laws of the State of California launched by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but would make Israel the first country to ban the trade of foie gras – though many others have also prohibited the delicacies production at home. The bill is to come to its first Knesset vote this Wednesday.

Lipman congratulated Shamir and Aharonovitch for “recognizing the importance in maintaining animal rights” and protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

“I insisted that it be forbidden to sell it here,” Lipman told The Jerusalem Post. “This will minimize the import to close to zero.

How many private people will import it just for their own enjoyment? The goal was that it should not be part of our country at all and that was for the most part accomplished.”

Activists from Anonymous for Animal Rights welcomed the agreement made between Lipman and Shamir on the bill, saying that Israel has finally “cleansed itself from force-feeding,” which has long been a “symbol of abuse and moral obtuseness,” according to activist Hagai Cohen.

“Israel has a large gathering of people who care about animals, who were active in their determination to remove the resistance against the bill in recent weeks,” Cohen said.

“We thank Minister Shamir for changing his position and we call upon Knesset members to support the law also in the coming legislative stages.”

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