MKs Demand Names of Israeli Firms Boycotting Settlements

Who agreed to the terms, in exchange for deals to help build Rawabi?

The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee demanded yesterday that Israel's Civil Administration in the West Bank disclose the names of Israeli companies that promised not to use products from Jewish settlements in their construction work on the new Palestinian town of Rawabi.

The restriction involves products from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and was reportedly imposed on companies involved in the town's construction by Rawabi's developer. The town is planned for a site near Ramallah.

The Knesset committee also called on the government to develop a clear policy regarding Israeli companies that cooperate with the Palestinian boycott, charging that this latest development is the result of government inaction to date on the Palestinian Authority's boycott of products from the settlements.

Sasson Har-Sinai, CEO of the Ytong building supply company, sent a letter to the panel denying that his company had agreed to such a policy. Ytong is one of the companies that reportedly agreed to conform to the boycott in supplying building materials for Rawabi's construction.

The Knesset committee demanded answers from the government as to what steps would be taken against the Palestinian Authority while its current policy on boycotting goods from the settlements is maintained. The panel also reiterated a call by 48 Knesset members for the government to refrain from doing business with companies that comply with the Palestinian ban on settlement products.

Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud ) said that before Israeli companies begin building Rawabi, they should know the committee will make it very disadvantageous for them to comply with the boycott. MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) said the United States had defeated the Arab boycott of Israel by disqualifying any company that complied with it from doing business with the U.S. government. He suggested that the Israeli government adopt a comparable policy.

MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ), in contrast, argued that it is legitimate for the PA to use economic means to further its political policies. But Shama-Hacohen replied that what applies in Tel Aviv should also apply in the Golan Heights.

Hasson also said the matter should be dealt with by the prime minister, not through pressure on companies, and noted that in contracts for the construction of a new residential army complex in the Negev, companies are being required to give preference to products made in the south. Eldad countered that preferences are legitimate, but boycotts are not.

MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi ) said the Israeli companies' consent to the conditions imposed by Rawabi's developer amounted to accepting the Palestinian political position over that of Israel.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud ), who is also regional development minister, said Israeli companies that consent to the boycott are collaborating in the PA's delegitimization campaign against Israel. He called for an urgent cabinet debate on the issue.

Adi Ashkenazi, who heads the Regional Development Ministry's economics division, said his ministry took a negative view of all firms. He said the names of companies adhering to the boycott should be made public, and they should not be able to compete in government tenders.