Palestinian minister urges settler business to relocate
‘We welcome Israeli products in our market,’ says Hassan Abu Libda.
By RON FRIEDMAN
Palestinian Authority National Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libda defended his government’s decision to boycott goods produced in the settlements, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.Abu Libda said the move was in accordance with international law and necessary for Palestinian self-preservation.In May, the PA announced that it would be enforcing a complete boycott of all goods made in the West Bank settlements, an announcement that was accompanied by a door-to-door enlistment campaign and a public burning of settlement-made goods.As part of the campaign, residents were given a booklet containing photos and descriptions of settlement-produced goods and asked to take the “Al-Karameh,” or dignity pledge, and place stickers on their doorways reading, “My conscience is at peace...This place is clean from settlement products.”“While we are cleaning the Palestinian market from settlement products, we continue to commit to the Paris Protocol [on Economic Relations between the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization] and welcome Israeli products in our markets, in spite of the problems we have with Israel concerning its own commitments to the Paris Protocol,” said Abu Libda.The national economy minister said that Palestinian homes and businesses would remain full of Israeli-made products and that the PA would continue to be one of Israel’s largest trading partners, but would no longer allow products made in the settlements. To stress his point that the boycott was only targeted at settlers, Abu Libda said that any settlers who transferred their businesses into what he characterized as “Israel proper” would be taken off the list of boycotted products and welcomed as a trading partner.“It doesn’t make sense for Palestinians to be part of the lifeline of settlements that are built on Palestinian soil and to be part of the prosperity of the settlers, who are taking a very harsh, radical and violent position against the Palestinians,” said Abu Libda.“We believe that the settlements’ prosperity will be an obstacle to the enabling of an Israeli government to reach peace with the Palestinian side,” he went on. “It is clearly not in the interest of the believers of the twostate solution that we contribute to the welfare of the settlers. The settlers should find it a bit more difficult to settle in the West Bank.”The PA cabinet minister said he had heard of several attempts by settlers to bypass the boycott by changing their business addresses to Tel Aviv or elsewhere within the Green Line, but that the PA had methods of detecting such attempts and would not let them pass.“We are in the 21st century. There are many ways of detecting where things are made. You are not producing things in tunnels or underground,” he said. “Also, the majority of workers in the settlement factories are Palestinians.”When asked how the PA would handle the anticipated firing of Palestinian workers by their settler employers following the boycott, Abu Libda responded that the PA was working on reintegrating the workers into the Palestinian job market.“In our tradition, God forbids a person from going to bed on a full stomach while his neighbor goes hungry... These workers are part of our people, they are my family members and my neighbors,” said Abu Libda.“Nobody likes to see people suffering from unemployment and hunger, but in the meantime, while we are keen on supporting the reintegration of the workers into the economy, we have more than 200,000 Palestinians we have to worry about,” he went on. “An unemployed Palestinian is an unemployed Palestinian, regardless of who they are.”Abu Libda added that what he would really like to see was those Palestinians fired from the settlement companies – as well as one or two other unemployed Palestinians for each of them – go to work in Israel.“The Israeli private sector and the Palestinian private sector are far smarter than their respective officials. They know how to work together and bring about positive results,” said Abu Libda.When asked about the PA’s involvement in the international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which calls for a complete economic boycott of all Israeli products without distinguishing between goods made on either side of the Green Line, Abu Libda said that although the BDS coordinating body was based in the Palestinian territories, the movement was not part of the PA and did not reflect its policies.“We do not control the actions of the civil society in the Palestinian territories,” said Abu Libda.“We are latecomers to the boycott game and are often asked why we waited so long,” he added. “These sanctions existed before us and will likely continue even after we clear our homes of settlement products, but the actions of groups like the BDS movement should make Israelis and the Israeli government take a pause and think, why is this happening? Israel is doing it to itself. The flotilla incident was not Palestinian-manufactured. It is the acts of Israel that caused it.”
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