WASHINGTON – Add gefilte fish to the list of priorities championed by the US State Department.
Several weeks before Pessah, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would work to resolve a trade dispute preventing a huge shipment of gefilte fish bound for Israel that is stuck at a processing facility in Illinois.
“Passover is coming,” said Illinois Rep. Don Manzullo, a Republican, who asked Clinton to intervene on behalf of a gefilte fish factory in his district, Thomson, Illinois’ Schafer Fishery.
During a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, he said Israel had imposed a 120-percent tax on nine containers of Asian carp that had been made into gefilte fish patties.
“If there’s anything you can do to get the gefilte fish to Passover...,” he said.
The first Seder is March 29.
Drawing laughs, Clinton said she was up to a job that “sounds to me like one of those issues that should rise to the highest levels of our government.”
“If not, we’re going to have to figure out what to do with nine containers of it,” she said, prompting Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House committee, to quip that perhaps the fish would end up at the next state dinner.
Fresh and processed foods are subject to tariffs under the trade agreement between the US and Israel.
“Carp is not exempt from customs in the framework of the free trade agreement between Israel and the United States,” said Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. “Having said that, we are obviously looking into the request by Congressman Manzullo and are trying to see whether something can be done.”
Peled said two containers of gefilte had already arrived at the port in Haifa.
“I don’t think there’s a lack of gefilte fish either in Israel or in
the United States regarding Pessah,” Peled said. Nonetheless, he said,
“we’re seriously looking at this request by a member of Congress.”
On Thursday, Manzullo adopted a serious tone, saying he was concerned about several hundred jobs at the fishery in his district.
“Congressman, I will take that mission on,” Clinton said.