Israel Looks beyond EU; Linking Trade with Politics May Refocus Export Effort

Daily Mail (London), February 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Israel Looks beyond EU; Linking Trade with Politics May Refocus Export Effort


Byline: city FOCUS From Alex Brummer on the West Bank

YEHUDA Cohen bridles at the very mention of the Israel boycott campaign that has been gathering support in Europe and parts of the West.

'You want to destroy my company,' he declares standing proud in the bright sunlight outside his Jerusalem factory. 'It is not important who owns the land. To boycott is a shame.

'Labelling [goods from the West Bank] is itself a boycott. We will lose exports because retailers will go to the competition.' As chief executive of a plant that exports plastic fittings for bathrooms around the world, Cohen chose to locate his factory in one of the most disputed territories in the world. He employs 50 Palestinians and 40 Israelis at Barkan, 20 miles from Tel Aviv.

His workers earn a minimum 4,300 Israeli shekels (PS900) a month against the average of 1,300 shekels across the disputed territories of the West Bank.

Cohen runs a subsidiary of a publicly quoted Israeli industrial group, Hamat. He believes the model being pursued at the Barkan site, where more than 6,000 Israelis and Palestinian work together, is the way to go. 'Boycott destroys hope,' he insists. The effort to isolate Israel, and in particular goods from the West Bank and Gaza, came to prominence this month when Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson became the international face of SodaStream, devices that make fizzy drinks in the home.

Once part of Cadbury Schweppes, SodaStream is now Israeli-controlled and has attracted the wrath of the boycott campaign because it operates plants on the West Bank - two out of a dozen worldwide.

Johansson's decision led to a rift with Oxfam International, for whom she has been an ambassador. The charity aligned with the boycotters, believing it would pressure Israel to disengage from the West Bank.

There is increasing frustration in Israel at the efforts of the European Union, the country's biggest trading partner, to link economic and technology co-operation to politics. Israel exports 12. …

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