Israeli dairy farm
A dairy farm in Israel. Photo by Irit Rosenblum
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Irked at a blitz of pressure by dairy lobbyists on Knesset members, the Finance Ministry is threatening to withdraw the Dairy Economy Bill.

The bill is a government-sponsored proposal to reform the dairy industry, making it more efficient and allowing the import of milk and milk products.

The bill frees the industry, trade and labor minister to permit the import of dairy products to Israel, subject to the international treaties that Israel has signed.

Israel's two biggest dairy companies are Tnuva and Strauss. Tnuva hired the lobbying firm Goren-Amir, and Strauss works with the public relations firm Policy. Both companies sent out lobbyists to persuade MKs to vote against allowing dairy imports.

At a debate at the Knesset Economics Committee on Monday, it turned out that a majority of MKs support the dairy companies' drive to limit dairy imports. Amir Peretz (Labor ) argued that local manufacturers need protection given the change to market structure that will follow the bill's implementation.

A representative of the Industry ministry, Debby Milstein, told the committee that under World Trade Organization rules, imports of milk can't be banned; customs levies are the way to protect local produce. Care must be taken in formulating the law to make sure WTO rules aren't violated, she said.