By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee held a second hearing on the Palestinian economic boycott of Israel, and called for the government to take immediate action on the subject and for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to raise the issue immediately upon the initiation of peace talks.The hearing was a follow-up to a hearing held last month at the initiative of MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and Samaria Council Head Gershon Massika.Committee Chairman MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) opened the hearing, saying that it was clear that those who lost most as a result of the situation were the Palestinians themselves, who instead of learning from one of the “strongest economies in the world, preferred to fight against it.”Ariel emphasized that there has been a direct impact on factories and farmers alike, and that it will continue to increase.“We must eliminate the problem while it is still small,” he said.He proposed that Akunis ask Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to direct the Prime Minister’s Office to coordinate efforts to combat the boycott, as the problem must be dealt with on an inter-ministerial level. Ariel also proposed that the committee submit a law that would require that for every shekel that Israel loses as a result of the boycott, NIS 100 be deducted from the regular payments turned over by Israel to the Palestinian Authority.Committee members warned that if the problems emerging from the boycott are not solved within one month, they will submit the bill to the Knesset for legislation. The committee also called on Netanyahu to raise the topic of stopping the boycott immediately upon the initiation of peace talks, expected to begin as early as this week.Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who attended the committee meeting, told MKs that “we are currently at the start of the talks between the Palestinians and ourselves, and I therefore presume that the issue will be raised during the proximity talks. If the boycott continues, it may damage the progress of the talks and the foundation of trust between us.”“This boycott,” complained Ayalon, “is part of a continuous, planned and budgeted campaign of incitement and delegitimization against Israel by the Palestinian Authority.”He added that the boycott is one of the more important issues with which the Foreign Ministry is dealing and hinted that the continuation of the boycott would distance the Palestinians from their goal of acceptance to the World Trade Organization.Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, proposed to block Palestinians from using Israeli ports to import goods. Such an act, Brosh said, would not harm Israeli manufacturers, but would cause harm to Palestinian factories.Massika emphasized that “the Palestinian Authority is biting the handthat feeds it.” He accused the PA of acting not simply on the basis ofnationalist motives, but for personal financial betterment.The Samaria Council chairman cited the example of the recentconfiscation of Israeli cellular memory cards in the West Bank. “Bycoincidence or not by coincidence, [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s] son isworking to advance the establishment of a new Palestinian cellularnetwork called ‘Wattaniya’ which would compete in exactly this sector.”JÍerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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