Israelis react to Seanad vote: ‘We can manage happily without Ireland’
Israel’s defence minister suggests closing down Dublin embassy but such a drastic move is unlikely
Yehuda Cohen said he could not understand what was going on in Ireland.
“It hurts me that they are acting this way,” he said.
Cohen, chief executive of the Lipski Plastics factory in the Barkan industrial zone, close to the West Bank settlement city of Ariel, was commenting on a Seanad vote in support of a Bill banning the sale of goods from Israeli settlements, which has prompted an angry response.
Israel summoned in Irish Ambassador Alison Kelly for a reprimand after the vote and defence minister Avigdor Lieberman suggested Israel should close down its embassy in Dublin. Such a drastic move is unlikely but Israel could up the ante if the Bill becomes law.
Mr Cohen, who employs 70 Palestinians in his factory, said Wednesday’s vote would first and foremost hurt the Palestinian workforce. About 7,000 of the 10,000 workers in Barkan are Palestinian.
However, few products manufactured in the West Bank are exported to Ireland, so the practical effect of a boycott would be negligible.
Israel’s main fear is that the Irish move will encourage the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and prompt other countries to follow suit.
West Bank industries are small part of the Israeli economy, contributing some 2 per cent of its GDP. Exports to Ireland amount to some €60 million a year but Israeli trade officials predict that in wake of the vote, companies may reconsider doing business with Ireland.
“Ireland is certainly not a major market for Israel or for companies manufacturing in the West Bank,” said Dan Catarivas of the Manufacturers’ Association. “Our policy is not to mix business and politics. It’s a pity that Ireland is mixing the two.”
Moshe Lavran, who owns three three factories in Barkan – making plastics, electronics and aluminium products – reacted angrily to the Senate vote.
“We can manage happily without Ireland. Every time the Irish use their mobile phones or computers they are using Israeli technology so let’s see them boycotting anything Israeli,” he said.
David Simha, president of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, said Ireland was making a big mistake.
“The Palestinians need jobs to improve their economy and if the West Bank factories have no orders they will be forced to fire their Palestinian workers. Who gains from this? It doesn’t make sense.”
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