Protesting farmers tried to break through Israel’s northern border into Lebanon on Tuesday, August 17, as they continued their demonstrations against planned neoliberal agricultural reforms that, they contend, will destroy their livelihoods. The reforms will gradually reduce import tariffs on most fruit and vegetables over five years, and will immediately reduce them on eggs, avocados, garlic, peas, beans, dates, pineapples and artichokes, among other produce.
As several hundred protesters took part in the rally against the planned governmental reforms in the agricultural community of Avivim just south of the Lebanese border, some attempted to breach the border but were immediately halted by security forces. The farmers have already held several protests in recent weeks at different locations around the country. They have slammed the government’s planned reforms, insisting that it’s not them but rather the brokers and supermarkets that are driving up costs to consumers.
The populist reform was announced earlier this month by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, both from the far-right Yisrael Beytenu party. The bill is scheduled to be included in the anti-democratic “Arrangements Law,” an integral part of Israel’s annual budget plan.
Avshalom “Abu” Vilan, a former Meretz MK and the current secretary-general of the Israel Farmers Union, slammed the planned agricultural reforms and reiterated farmers’ claim that high prices in supermarkets are caused by brokers and sellers, not those growing the produce. In a statement, Vilan said that the ministers are not addressing “the piggish profits of the retail chains that are making billions and selling agricultural produce at two to three times the price that the farmer gets, and the brokerage gaps that make prices more expensive.”
Farmers reportedly have the backing of many lawmakers including several from coalition partners from Yesh Atid, Meretz, Labor, and Blue & White are working to resolve the issue. The Joint List opposes the planned agricultural reforms as it does the government’s entire budget proposal.