JERUSALEM (Sep. 12)
Israel Minister of Agriculture Pinchas Lavon today delivered a sharp attack on the black market in Israel during a lengthy debate on the government’s food policy, which was begun yesterday with a two-hour report by Mr. Lavon on the state of agricultural production.
The Minister charged that in fact two states existed in Israel: the lawful state, which managed to distribute 80 to 90 percent of the food to consumers at official prices; and the unlawful state of the black market which involved building supplies, transport and both small and large industrial establishments. He warned that the two “states” could not exist side-by-side and that the illegal state would “kill off” the legal state.
However, the Minister also insisted that the extent of the black market was exaggerated. The sources of the black market in food, he said, were partly the large quantities of food which the immigrants were permitted to bring in duty free and the food parcels from abroad. He estimated that some 10,000 of 120,000 food parcels received here are sold in the black market. In addition, some of the immigrants, unaccustomed to a portion of their new diet, sold it.
Minister Lavon insisted that both private and co-operative enterprises were involved in illegal transactions and blamed some of it on smugglers operating from the neighboring Arab states. The Minister’s prescription for ending the black market called for: an expended enforcement apparatus; greater co-operation on the part of the public; and prompt distribution of rationed items at the time when they are promised.
DEPUTIES BLAME GOVERNMENT FOR THE SITUATION
Critics of the government from the far right to the Communist left took the floor after the Minister relinquished it. Centrist deputy Joseph Saphir blamed government planning for the situation. He insisted that signs of trouble were discernable last March and, in the name of the General Zionist Party, demanded “better planning.”
Left-wing Mapam leader Aharon Zisling insisted that the existing apparatus could suppress the black market if it were used correctly. Religious Laborite Yaakov Chazani suggested that the government permit price rises in domestically-produced goods. The high cost of production and the low ceiling prices forced farmers to turn from many food products and concentrate on those items which yielded high returns, he said.
Communist deputy Esther Wilenska, seizing on Lavon’s statement that the Korean War had inflated prices of goods which Israel must import, declared that Israel should not have been linked so closely to the West. She asked that the Jewish state trade more with the East where, she insisted, prices have not risen.