Eight months after learning that most pistachio nuts marketed in Israel
come from Iran,
the Knesset's Finance Committee discussed the matter once again on Tuesday, following an additional request by the Tax Authority to impose a levy on roasted pistachio as well.
In February, the Tax Authority sought to impose the tax on fresh pistachio imported from Turkey. It was later discovered, however, that the nuts are produced in Tehran and that the Iranian manufacturers and exporters are aware of the great demand for their products in Israel and are exporting them through Turkey as they have no commercial ties with Israel.
Some 3,500 tons of pistachio nuts are imported from Turkey every year.
The pressure to impose the levy came from the United States, which also exports pistachio nuts, but of a larger type which is mainly wanted for gourmet purposes. The Tax Authority approved the levy, at 23% of the import price per kilogram, which will not go below NIS 3.5 per kilogram.
There is no tax on American pistachio nuts imported to Israel, and the plan was to limit the imports of Iranian pistachio in favor of the American one.
Tax Authority representative Kobi Bozo asked the Finance Committee to expand the levy to roasted pistachio as well, following American pressure. Bozo explained that the tax imposed on fresh pistachio in February led to a sharp decline in their import, which was replaced by a relative rise in the imports of roasted pistachio produced in Iran.
"We've decided to seal the breach and ask you to compare the levy on both types of pistachio," Bozo said. The committee members were surprised to learn that the pistachio nuts in question are indirectly imported from Iran.
Knesset Member Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu)
said, "If we are talking about imports from Iran, the Treasury should use the tax money to fund an advertisement informing the public that the pistachio nuts originate in Iran and Turkey, so that the public will refrain from buying them."
MK Chaim Oron (Meretz)
cried out, "We must not let our business with Iran turn to the issue of pistachio nuts." Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism)
concluded by saying, "At least this is our modest contribution to the Iranian nuclear issue."