The Palestinian finance minister stressed Sunday that the boycott on Israeli products pertains only to goods produced in settlements, and that the Palestinian Authority desires to maintain ties with the Israeli market.
"We have excellent ties with the Israeli market and we want to continue this cooperation and even expand it," Dr. Hasan Abu-Libdeh said at a conference held at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv.
As part of the boycott, Palestinians have been forbidden to work at Israeli factories located in the West Bank. When asked what would become of all those employed there, he answered in a sarcastic tone. "I am happy to see how many here are concerned for these 22,000 workers," he said.
"But if you are concerned, why don't you take them to work in Israel? They are talented, professional, loyal workers employed for relatively low wages, and can donate much to the Israeli market."
One of the Israeli participants in the conference was industrialist Amiram Shor, a member of the Manufacturers' Association. He said that if the Palestinians resigned due to the boycott, the association would attempt to bring foreign laborers to Israel in their stead.
Abu-Libdeh said the Palestinian Authority had no intention of smashing all economic ties with Israel, despite the boycott. "Israel is here to stay," he said. "And we are interested in peace and cooperation with it, therefore we will not participate in any boycott against the Israeli economy as a whole."
He added that many of the Palestinian imports and exports rely on Israel. "We couldn't boycott the Israeli economy even if we wanted to," he said.
"The aim of the campaign against settlement products is to support the Palestinians' economic development and efforts to build a Palestinian state by establishing an industry to take the place of the
industry settlers have established in the occupied territories."
Regarding the calamitous IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last week the minister said, "The fiasco that occurred this week isolated Israel more than any campaign we could have made against it. Israel has enjoyed much global support and friendship, but become isolated over the past year because of the policy of the current government."