In Israel, Even Eggs Are Cause for Conflict: New Poultry Law Slammed as ‘Creeping Annexation’

A law approved by the Knesset now lets poultry farmers in settlements to transfer production quotas to their counterparts in Israel; MKs charge: 'What's needed is to return settlers, not quotas'

A chicken coop in northern Israel.
\ Yaron Kaminsky

The Knesset approved legislation, in both second and third votes on Monday, that will for the first time allow chicken farmers in West Bank settlements to transfer their egg-production quotas to their counterparts in Israel proper, whose quotas are smaller.

Opposition Knesset members called the move to alter the quotas, which are set by the Israel Egg and Poultry Board, another sign of the government's tendency toward “creeping annexation” of the settlements by means of legislation. Apparently the settler farmers would receive some compensation in return.

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In a related development, the Knesset also backed legislation, in the first of three votes, that would allow municipal tax receipts from businesses in well-to-do municipalities in Israel to be transferred to West Bank settlements.

“Carrying out creeping annexation on the backs of the chickens too is getting to be too much,” said MK Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Joint List). “These are quotas from people who are living [in the West Bank] in violation of international law – war criminals who are in the territories as settlers. What is needed is to return them [the settlers] rather than unnecessarily returning the egg quotas that they have there" to Israel.

Explanatory information accompanying the legislation stated that despite the fact that West Bank poultry farmers receive higher personal egg quotas than farmers in Israel proper, they haven’t until now been able to transfer the production and marketing quotas to Israel itself due to legal restrictions. A reexamination of the situation led to the conclusion that farmers on either side of the 1967 Green Line should be able to swap quotas with one another, the notes explained.

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In the plenum debate on the bill, Hajj Yahya claimed that the Egg and Poultry Board has thwarted the activity of Arab farmers in the poultry sector by imposing conditions that they cannot meet.

“This bill is seen as another step on the way to annexing the territories and embodies the new Israeli dictatorship,” said Hajj Yahya’s Joint List colleague Haneen Zoabi.

For his part, Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), who sponsored the bill, rejected the criticism. In response to Hajj Yahya, he said: “You and I know that this bill has no significance with regard to Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank. The only sector that it relates to is egg farming, he claimed, adding that a small number of farmers are being given larger quotas that they cannot use because their new chicken coops must be built to European standards.

The tax legislation that was initially voted on in the plenum would allow the Interior Ministry to channel municipal tax revenues from businesses in economically strong communities within Israel into nearby settlements across the Green Line, but not into other locales in Israel itself. The sponsor of the legislation, Shas MK Michael Malkieli, said it was designed “to correct a decades-long injustice in which [local] authorities beyond the Green Line have been discriminated against.”

However, opposition MK Yossi Yonah (Zionist Union) took the government to task, saying that instead of openly and clearly stating that it was seeking to annex the territories, it lacks the courage to do so and is trying to accomplish it in a devious way.

In the same vein, MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) said to the plenum: “Your agenda is annexation, so don’t carry out creeping annexation. Instead, put it on the table and pass an annexation bill. Let’s see you let the truth blow up in your faces.”