Yissakhar Michal and Jaron Nettaare a couple of entrepreneurs who founded the vegan chocolate factory Briton in 2011. The Israeli produce has aroused great enthusiasm in Israel and even more so in the world, and the factory is successful and employs many workers in the north. But on Sunday, the plant will stop producing. The workers will most likely be sent home.
This is not happening because of a lack of demand, nor because of anything related to Corona. Briton orders their raw materials from the US, which usually takes about a month. They take a safety interval of two to three weeks for extra security, so they ordered the last shipment of raw materials as early as mid-February. But as early as the end of March, the ship updated them it’s gonna be late, and a lot.
So Why? Because there is a huge traffic jam in the ports of Haifa and Ashdod. In terms of damage to the Israeli economy, this cork leaves dust on a ship that recently got stuck in the Suez Canal. Instead of 44 hours of waiting for unloading as in 2019, a container ship arriving at the port is waiting in a traffic jam for 21–30 * days *. No less than 40 ships are waiting at any moment to enter the port, and sometimes 60 ships are crowded at the same time.
Why is the port not recruiting temporary workers, who will help with the unloading work and release the traffic jam? Or, alternatively, why not move workers from the private port in Eilat to reinforce Haifa and Ashdod? The answer is simple — the Histadrut is not ready to hear about it. This, in turn, sets a dangerous precedent for managerial flexibility and the income of new employees. In the ports, nothing can happen without a substantial bribe that will be added to the huge bribe of NIS 2.7 million for an employee who has already given their consent to the privatization of the port of Haifa.
The heads of organizations and companies engaged in trade and transportation sent a letter to Transport Minister Miri Regev, explaining to her that the situation is “a naval blockade that affects the entire business sector and threatens business survival: importers, exporters, forwarders, shipping companies and their agents, land transport companies — all severely affected.” Shipping companies have already announced that they are canceling moorings in Israel and even entire fixed lines. Who wants to do business with a country where the commission can force ships to wait a month at sea?
The impact is of course broader, as businesses like Briton Chocolate will have to tell US commercial customers to wait with the chocolate because the port is congested. In short, this madness is shaping Israel’s trade ties with the world more than BDS will ever be able to.
The Briton Chocolate raw material ship at least arrived at the port and started the unloading process, so that on Sunday the goods will finally arrive … for customs clearance. It is, as Daniel Barkat himself told me, “a lottery. Can be released within two hours or within two weeks, depending on tests that can be done and more delays.” The option of reporting to the customs in advance what is in the container and obtaining a permit does not exist in the State of Israel, although this is how customs work in any country I rent and want to trade.
And at the same time, a small port is working near the port of Haifa, called “Israel Shipyards Port”. It is a private port established in response to the great port strike in 2004. But as part of the termination agreement of that strike, he was allowed to unload only 5% of Israeli trade. A completely arbitrary number, designed to prevent him from being a serious competitor to the port of Haifa. It might have been possible to unload goods there, but it is simply forbidden by law.
The partial naval siege we are in is not due to an accident or the hand of fate, but to the intolerable gap between the power of Israeli entrepreneurship and the failure of the public sector and the scandalous conduct of the port committees. God forbid, release the Israeli trade.