Yesha Council Urges Response to PA Boycott

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Yesha Council wants the Israeli government to step up the pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end its boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), comparing the boycott to terrorism.

"In response to the Palestinian campaign against Israeli factories and companies located in the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the Yesha Council points out that this is an act of terrorism and ill will on the part of the PA that must be responded to immediately and in no uncertain terms as should be the response to every form of terrorism," read a statement issued on Tuesday.

The Yesha Council is an umbrella organization representing Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.

"This [boycott] is a clear violation of the [1994] Paris Protocol, which outlines the economic relationship between Israel and the PA and, as a result, Israel should use the PA funds it holds to compensate the boycotted factories and companies," it stated.

The council urged the government to close Israeli ports to Palestinian imports and exports until the boycott is canceled, according to the recommendation of former Manufacturers Association of Israel president Shraga Brosh, now serving as chairman of the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations.

The statement also urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to participate in proximity talks with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a key promoter of the boycott.

Fayyad recently invited the press to photograph him burning Israeli-made products in the Arab town of Salfit amidst calls of incitement against Israel, Yesha pointed out in its statement. Fayyad subsequently ordered security forces to confiscate and destroy all Israeli-made goods.

Fines and Imprisonment

On April 26, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a draft law stipulating a $15,000 fine and a two- to five-year prison sentence for Arab merchants selling boycotted goods. Anyone caught importing the products would face up to $3,000 in fines, confiscation of their vehicles and business license and a three- to six-year prison term, according to the law.

Hassan al-Ouri, legal advisor to the PA president, warned that Palestinians "providing goods produced in [the] settlements" would be punished.

"We count on the awareness of the Palestinian citizen not to buy products of the settlements and support the Israeli occupation, but at the same time there must be a punishment for breach of the national consensus," al-Ouri told the PA's state-run news agency, WAFA.

Mansour Dahamshy, chairman of the Kafr Kana public committee, committed Israeli Arab residents to the boycott.

"We are launching a campaign across the entire Arab sector to boycott all goods manufactured in the West Bank settlements," Dahamshy said recently. "We mean to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and wage battle against the settlements and the occupation."

The goal of the boycott, he said, is "to free the West Bank of settlements" by "harming their economy."

"All production in the West Bank should be owned and operated by Palestinians, not Israelis or settlers [sic]. We need to help the Palestinian economy to sustain itself and not leave it dependent on settler-owned companies," Dahamshy said.

The group distributed lists of Israeli-made products to Arab grocery stores and shops in east Jerusalem, which they say includes more than 1,000 products ranging from fruits and vegetables to computers.

Growth of PA Economy

Meanwhile, an Israeli government report issued on April 13, 2010, showed that the PA economy grew by 8 percent in 2009.

"This relative economic growth and an improved quality of life are reflected in flourishing economic, cultural and social activities," the report stated, citing new shopping malls, theater complexes, hotels, housing, a second Palestinian cell phone operator with more than 100,000 subscribers, construction started on the Bethlehem Industrial Zone, jointly funded by France and the PA.

The report also quoted official Palestinian sources of a 600 percent increase in foreign investment in the West Bank since 2008.

Click here to read the full report.

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The Jerusalem Post and YNet contributed to this report.

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