Eli Cohen
Eli Cohen Hezki Baruch

Economy Minister Eli Cohen tells Arutz Sheva about a document submitted to the Yesha Council that clarifies that if Judea and Samaria are harmed by the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, they will compensate for the full amount owed to them.

Minister Cohen opened his remarks with a firm reference to the surplus agreement signed between Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White: "Liberman proves he is part of the left and all voters need to know that every vote for Liberman is a vote to establish a Lapid/Gantz government. He tore the mask off his face. He is part of the left. He did everything to prevent Netanyahu from being prime minister. He is only preoccupied with attacking the haredim out of a personal agenda."

According to Minister Cohen, "the surplus agreement between Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White shows that Liberman is headed toward a government headed by Gantz."

And maybe, we asked, is it an agreement between Liberman and a party that includes personalities such as Moshe Ya'alon, who was a member of Liberman's government in the past? Minister Cohen proposes to examine the data: "Liberman disqualifies the Yamina Party and the haredi partners, but joins Alon Schuster, Micha Biton, and Avi Nissenkorn who are clearly left-wing people, which means he disqualifies the right and connects with leftists.

"If anyone had a shadow of a doubt that Liberman might be center-right, now he is obviously part of the leftist bloc," Cohen says, and when asked if Liberman's positions have changed or have always been planted in the left, the minister replies: "Liberman does what's good for Liberman and not what's good for the country. His entire goal is to trawl for votes; he says he's against the haredim, but in the elections in Jerusalem when two candidates, the haredi candidate Moshe Leon against the secular candidate Ofer Berkowitz ran against each other, Liberman supported and sewed the deals to elect Leon with the haredim. Liberman is twenty years of talk and zero deeds."

Later, Minister Cohen was asked about the lost and hidden seats of Kulanu, his former party, which were not added to the 35 Likud seats. The real question, he replied, is why the entire Likud wins just 31 to 35 seats in the polls, though he noted he himself is not impressed with the polls, "I remind that on the eve of the last elections, the Likud stood at 28 seats in the polls but in the end they got 35 seats. Today the struggle is more difficult because Liberman is on the left and the rightist public must come out and vote so that we can continue the right's national policy. Most of the public clearly wants Netanyahu as Prime Minister, but people need to step out of their complacency and vote."

Later, Cohen addressed the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea and reports of the exclusion of Judea and Samaria from the agreement. Cohen made clear, as he put it, that "there is no agreement that we sign which includes territorial separation. As far as we are concerned, Judea and Samaria are part of the State of Israel. There is no change in that, period."

However, he said, "The main agreement with South Korea does not distinguish between territories in the State of Israel. There is a reference to other trade agreements in the past which say they may not cancel customs duties on export from Judea and Samaria. We do not know whether they will or will not. But one thing is clear to us, that if they do, there will be complete compensation by the Israeli government for manufacturers in Judea and Samaria."

Minister Cohen also added that already in the signing ceremony it was made clear to South Korea that such clauses are not at all acceptable to the Israeli government and, in its estimation, they will also not enforce nor implement these clauses that are currently in force with EU countries.

Minister Cohen also spoke of a signed and official document sent to the Yesha Council heads and which clarifies all of this data. "There is no difference between an industrialist in Kfar Saba and an industrialist in Ariel. We told South Korea that the main difference was not making a distinction, and we had said it was unacceptable in previous agreements. Yesterday, we issued an official letter, signed by the government, to the Yesha Council clarifying what is being said here, and this document eased their minds."

Listen to the interview with Minister Eli Cohen (in Hebrew):