(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Palestinian Authority has "declared war" on the Israeli economy by boycotting settlement goods, charged Knesset speaker Ruby Rivlin (Likud) during a solidarity visit he made Thursday morning to the Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria.
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The West Bank park, located right off Route 5, is home to 143 factories. Half of its 5,000 workers are Palestinian.
Rivlin spoke on the same day that the PA inaugurated its house-to-house campaign, in which 3,000 volunteers are knocking on doors and explaining the significance of the boycott.
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad plans to accompany a group in the Ramallah area.
In Barkan Rivlin did some hand shaking of his own with Palestinian employees. He spoke with them in Arabic and asked questions about their working conditions.
The government has not understood how serious an issue this is, Rivlin said and warned that it could soon spread to other countries and become an international boycott.
He added that it was dangerously reminiscent of the former Arab boycott against Israeli products, which predated the creation of the state.
"To boycott goods produced in Barkan, is to boycott goods in Tel Aviv, Sderot and Kiryat Arba," he said.
He added that he heard that the PA was seeking international funding to compensate workers for jobs in the settlements, which it is demanding that they leave.
At Shamir Salads Rivlin donned a white cap and gown as he toured a room where Palestinian laborers were busy packaging eggplant mixtures into small plastic containers.
"We have to live together," he told laborers in Arabic.
"Place like Barkan Industrial Park are examples of co-existence," Rivlin said.
"This is the bridge which will bring peace," he said.
"The Jewish people have returned to their homeland where there are
people [Palestinians] who were born here," he said.
"We [Israelis and Palestinians] have to live together," he added.
It is boycotts such as the one issued by the PA, which are the true
"stumbling block to peace, Rivlin said.
"You can't make peace and make war at the same time," he said.
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said that the
government had not done enough to stop the boycott. He suggested that if
it continued a tariff should be imposed on Palestinian products.