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'Boycott Challenges Coexistence'

Knesset speaker Rivlin tours factories boycotted by the PA, decries boycott as “hostile,” damaging to coexistence.
By Maayana Miskin & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 5/28/2010, 9:26 AM / Last Update: 5/28/2010, 9:38 AM

The Palestinian Authority boycott of Israeli-owned factories in Judea and Samaria “is a challenge to coexistence, and decreases the chance of normalizing ties,” said Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin during a Thursday tour. Rivlin visited some of the affected factories and spoke to the workers.

He toured the Barkan industrial zone in Samaria, which employs thousands of workers, many of them PA Arabs. “The Barkan industrial zone is a true bridge to peace and coexistance,” he said.

He called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to determine whether the PA boycott is causing concrete damages to Judea and Samaria-based Israeli businesses. If it is, he said, Israel should compensate the businesses.

While Rivlin criticized the boycott as “hostile” and harmful to Israel-PA ties, he expressed confidence in Israel's ability to thrive despite it. “Israel has overcome many boycotts from the Arab world,” he noted. However, he said, Israel should fight the boycott now, so that it does not expand.

Among those Rivlin met during his tour were PA Arab employees, who have been told by PA leaders that they must quit their jobs in the upcoming weeks. The workers said they were satisfied with their jobs, but preferred not to discuss the boycott. The PA is raising $50 million to cover salaries of workers who leave their jobs in Jewish areas.

Rivlin also met with Judea and Samaria Council head Danny Dayan and Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika. Mesika charged the PA with violating agreements regarding economic cooperation, and called on Israel to put a stop to it by bringing its own financial power to bear. Among other things, Israel should stop allowing the PA to sell its products to Israelis, he said.

"The factories in Judea and Samaria will survive the boycott... The damage here is to the state of Israel. They are openly spitting on us, and Israel is doing next to nothing,” he said.

Dayan harshly criticized the PA, saying, “What the authorities of the Palestinian Authority have declared is a hostile act, a terrorist act, economic terrorism against the state of Israel.” Israel knows what must be done to end the boycott, he continued. If the government were to threaten to close Israel's borders to PA trade, he said, “the boycott will be terminated in a matter of days.”