Settlement group says South Korea trade deal won’t hurt West Bank businesses

The Yesha Council, an advocacy group for West Bank settlements, sought to calm concerns on the right Wednesday over the upcoming free trade agreement with South Korea, which Seoul has insisted could not be applied to businesses based in the West Bank or Golan Heights.

In a statement, the group says the agreement is an “important” contribution to Israel’s economic strength and global standing.

“In a conversation between Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Yesha Council Chairman Hananel Dorani, it was clarified that the agreement makes no mention of a territorial distinction that discriminates or could hurt businesses and entrepreneurs in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley or the Golan Heights, and that the agreement was crafted on the model of existing agreements with the European Union,” the statement says.

It adds that Cohen “promised that if South Korea does not grant customs benefits to businesses from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, that the Economy Ministry intends to fully compensate them.”

If the agreement, which has not yet been publicized, is similar to those signed between Israel and the EU, the main text may not mention territories under Israeli control, which are not recognized as part of Israel by the international community — but the territories remain outside the agreement by dint of Seoul’s definition of its trading partner “Israel” as referring to territories within the Green Line.

According to recent media reports, Israel protested South Korea’s refusal to include those territories in the agreement, and that protest is contained in a separate letter attached to the agreement.

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