US, Israel Dicker Over Fish

The United States and Israel are dickering over the price of fish – specifically, gefilte fish. And Passover is getting closer.

Tags: Jewish World
Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 1:05 PM

Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

The United States and Israel are dickering over the price of fish – specifically, gefilte fish – while the holiday of Passover, when it is considered de rigeur for every Ashkenazi Jew to consume at least some, draws closer.

The dispute centers on a 120 percent import duty imposed by Israel on nine containers of Asian carp fillets that were being shipped from an Illinois fishery to a processing plant that makes gefilte fish.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor reinstated the import tax at NIS 6.50 per kilo of regular carp, just in time to skin consumers who are filling their food baskets for the holidays. The reason: fish farmers are complaining that their profit margin of five percent on the locally-raised carp, which costs the Israeli shopper NIS 24 ($6.50) per kilo, is too low. The import tax on carp was abolished “by mistake,” the Fish Growers Association claims, and the error was now simply rectified.

Carp, an oily freshwater fish, is a central ingredient in the production of gefilte fish, although the delicacy can be made with other types of fish as well.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would put an end to the disagreement over the import tax before the Passover holiday, which begins on the night of March 29. But until she does, nine containers of carp are stuck in Illinois.

Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee with some irony last week that the difficulty “sounds to me like one of those issues that should rise to the highest levels of our government.” She made the remark in response to a request by U.S. Representative Don Manzullo (R-Ill), who had requested her assistance in resolving the matter before the first Passover seder (liturgical meal on the holiday's first two nights).

Gefilte fish, an Eastern European dish, is comprised of several different types of fish typically ground together with onions, carrots, eggs, sugar, salt and a bit of oil and then formed into balls and boiled in a broth. It is customarily served in Ashkenazi families as the first course at the Passover seder table, and at the dinner table on the Sabbath.