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ISRAEL: Iranian pistachios? Diplomacy can be nutty

March 25, 2009 |  8:56 am

Pistachios_htazlskf OK, so Israel has issues with Iran. But splitting atoms is one thing; splitting hairs on where Israel gets its pistachios
is entirely another. 

For years, the U.S. has been pressuring Israel to break the habit of buying Iranian pistachios from third-party markets such as Turkey and turning a blind eye to trade-embargo issues (although the U.S. trade sanctions seem to have their own quirks).

To be sure, Israelis love pistachios. In a recent interview, President Shimon Peres recalled with nostalgia the wondrous fistouk shammi (Aleppo pistachios) he enjoyed years ago in Iran as the shah's guest.

Now he might get a taste of California instead, as reports say San Joaquin pistachios are headed for Israel.

A convenient solution to the diplomatic discomfort came about with recent tinkering to Israeli taxes that raised tariffs on  non-U.S. pistachios, making the U.S.-grown nuts a much better deal and providing Israel with politically correct pistachios to boot.

The intense lobbying at surprisingly high echelons is probably due not only to diplomatic efforts but also to the fact that Israel has the highest pistachio-per-capita consumption rate in the world, making it a lucrative market to penetrate. And the U.S. is the world's second-largest producer of pistachios -- after Iran.

-- Batsheva Sobelman

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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