Published On: Sun, Sep 21st, 2014

Agriculture Minister Irate over IDF ‘Haredi’ Move to Import Produce on Sabbatical Year

Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir

The Farmers Organization of Israel says that the Ministry of Defense intends to spend tens of millions of shekels over the coming year on importing agricultural produce for the IDF. The Defense Ministry issued a denial.

Negotiations between farmers’ representatives and the Ministries of Defense and Agriculture over how IDF units would receive fruits and vegetables during the shmita (sabbatical) year, when farming the land is forbidden under Jewish law, broke down yesterday. The Farmers Organization claim that in an exceptional measure, for the first time since the state of Israel was declared, the Ministry of Defense and the IDF have adopted a stringent interpretation of Jewish law, and are planning to import fruits and vegetables from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

The farmers allege that importing fresh produce will cost tens of millions of shekels more, while severely damaging Israeli agriculture. A large proportion of agricultural produce in Israel comes from the southern region, including around the Gaza Strip. The farmers say that the Defense Ministry’s decision, at a time when agriculture in the area needs a helping hand, will make things much worse. Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir today appealed to Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, and criticized IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Rafi Peretz for adopting an extremist haredi (ultra-Orthodox) attitude, saying, “Rabbi Peretz has adopted the extremely stringent haredi approach, which harms not only Israeli agriculture, but also the IDF’s image. This is another step in the haredization of the IDF, and constitutes a precedent, because no other public organization in Israel has adopted such a measure.”

Shamir added, “No less outrageous is the cost: tens of millions of shekels that Israelis as a whole will have to pay. This decision is divorced from the current budget situation.” Shamir called on Ya’alon to order the purchase of fruits and vegetables exclusively from Israeli farmers.

The Defense Ministry said in response, “As part of its preparation for the shmita year, the IDF and the Defense Ministry have ensured that the company that won the tender to supply vegetables to IDF soldiers has sufficient sources to ensure that a large majority of the produce will be supplied through Israeli farmers. At this stage, the agreement is for only six months, with no change in the cost and prices of vegetables, compared with an ordinary year. The procurement agreement for the rest of the shmita year has not been finalized yet, and in any case, involves only Israeli farmers. We regret the tendentious attempt by parties with commercial interests to defame the Defense Ministry.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com

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