Ministry of Defense seeks foreign suppliers

Budget cuts blamed for need to look outside Israel for purchases.

The Ministry of Defense is tendering bids in the open market for the production of over 7,000 items, which the Manufacturers Association of Israel claims could result in the loss of over 30,000 hours of work for Israeli producers, most of whom are located in the North, which is already suffering from the war. The offer, which is being directed towards Chinese manufacturers, involves the manufacture of 6,500 lowquality backpacks and 1,200 duffle bags. "[The government] has to think again and leave the jobs with workers in the North," said Ramzi Gabbay, chairman of the Fashion and Textiles Association within the Manufacturers Association. Israeli textile workers, he explained, continue to suffer from continued outsourcing and competition from open markets, resulting in fewer textile manufacturers in the country. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense stressed the importance the ministry places on supporting local industries but said that, in light of continued budget cuts, "bids are tendered for non-specialty items from foreign manufacturers and products acquired when the price is substantially less than that of Israeli manufacturers." In this case, the ministry said it has placed an open tender for the manufacture of these non-specialty backpacks and bags to the open market in an effort to significantly reduce costs. Gabbay said it is difficult for Israeli manufacturers to compete with their Chinese counterparts. "The competition is not fair and it is not equal because of the discrepancy in pay to Israeli workers, which is 20 times more than Chinese workers," he said. Gabbay warned that if government contracts continue to be outsourced, the textile industry in Israel will shrink, noting that in the last 11 years the industry has shrunk by 60%, accounting for approximately 29,000 jobs. Gabbay was skeptical, however, that efforts to persuade the government to use Israeli manufacturers would be effective. "Nothing will change," he remarked.