Israel, U.S. Try to Mend Another Crisis - Over Gefilte Fish

While in Washington, Netanyahu seeks to solve tax dispute related to carp imports.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the United States to mend fences with the Obama administration, he used his time there to intervene on another major disagreement with more immediate implications for Israeli Jews than construction in East Jerusalem: the gefilte fish crisis.

The crisis began when containers holding frozen carp for Seder tables arrived at the Ashdod port, and the importer and the American manufacturer told port authorities they didn't know carp imports were to be taxed, as of January, at NIS 11 a kilogram. Five more fish-filled containers were on their way to Israel, and three weeks ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked visiting Defense Minister Ehud Barak to release the containers from custom tax.

Barak approached Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, and a compromise was offered - the two containers would be allowed to dislodge their cargo without paying customs tax, and the importer would order an additional shipment of identical quantity on which he would pay full tax. The importer and manufacturer, however, rejected the offer out of hand, and have asked an American congressman to intervene.

"Bibi had no idea of the matter and after meeting the congressman, asked his aide, Ron Brumer, to resolve the crisis," said the deputy director-general for trade at the Agriculture Ministry, Itzik Ben David. "The solution as it looks right now will be to sent the carp over to Canada, for their gefilte fish industry."

Ben David said he understood that the Americans told Netanyahu that stopping gefilte fish imports would increase unemployment in the U.S., no less. Netanyahu replied that Israel has no policy of increasing American unemployment," Ben David said.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry said this week that the recommended price for carp for the Passover season will be NIS 24 to NIS 28 shekels a kilo.