Israeli Cabinet's Plan to Combat BDS Held Up by Defense Minister's Opposition

Ya'alon objects to strategic affairs minister issuing orders to IDF intelligence staff, while Foreign Ministry fears losing further influence on policy.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Gaza on the Seine, Paris, August 13, 2015.
Gaza on the Seine, Paris, August 13, 2015.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Opposition by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is holding up approval of a government plan to combat BDS, the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The plan, if approved, would shift responsibility for addressing the issue to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, but a senior official in Jerusalem with knowledge of details of discussions on the matter noted that Ya’alon has reservations on the approach because he is not prepared to have Erdan issue orders to staff of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps who are monitoring the activities of pro-BDS organizations.

In June last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a cabinet meeting that he had entrusted the Strategic Affairs Ministry with “overall responsibility for the fight against delegitimization [of Israel], including coordination of efforts with organizations in Israel and abroad to deal with the phenomenon directed at Israel and the Jewish people.”

The prime minister noted at the time that the Strategic Affairs Ministry would establish a professional team on the subject and would receive all the necessary tools and authority.

The individuals who pushed the plan, which involved the transfer of authority from several government ministries to the strategic affairs minister, were the minister at the time, Yuval Steinitz and his director general Yossi Kuperwasser, as well as Defense Minister Ya’alon. It was Ya’alon, who had previously served as strategic affairs minister, who appointed Kuperwasser as director general.

At the time, Steinitz presented a plan costing 100 million shekels ($25.8 million) to combat BDS, but before the government ended its term in office, almost nothing was done on the matter. Following the formation of a new government and a number of anti-Israel initiatives on the part of the Palestinians – notably the effort to suspend Israel from the international soccer organization FIFA – Netanyahu and many other cabinet ministers again began issuing statements on the need for a plan to combat BDS.

When Erdan decided to join the current government, he was appointed public security minister as well as intelligence minister and was given ministerial responsibility for coordinating efforts against the BDS movement. He developed a draft of a resolution for approval by the cabinet and began to act on the issue, but the cabinet session on the subject was repeatedly delayed over the course of many weeks.

Several weeks ago, it was decided to transfer the subject from the agenda of the entire cabinet to a more limited panel of ministers, the security cabinet, which deals with diplomatic and security matters, on the contention that the issue had sensitive diplomatic and security-related implications. In advance of the security cabinet meeting, preparatory meetings were held with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen in an effort to reach an understanding with other ministries and produce a draft for presentation to the inner cabinet. At the same time, understandings were reached with the Finance Ministry over the allocation of about 100 million shekels in resources for the anti-BDS plan.

The security cabinet meeting on the matter was set for Wednesday afternoon, but on Tuesday a number of people in the defense establishment were already expressing their reservations. Ya’alon, who as strategic affairs minister had demanded that authority over anti-BDS efforts be transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry, had changed his position in the meantime, because the IDF Intelligence Corps, which reports to the defense minister, was carrying out its own work in combatting BDS. A day before the scheduled security cabinet meeting, an item on the matter also appeared in Haaretz. Ya’alon opposed giving any authority to Erdan that would allow him to issue orders to Intelligence Corps staff.

At Wednesday’s security cabinet session, Ya’alon and members of the defense establishment attempted to defer a vote on the subject and raised technical arguments to delay it moving forward, a senior official in Jerusalem noted. A defense source said, however, that Ya’alon did not object to actually giving authority to coordinate efforts to combat BDS to Erdan.

“The problem was that the proposal was negligently drafted and was sent to the ministers the evening before the inner cabinet session. There is a demand by many entities with a connection to the issue, such as the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry and the legal advisers from other ministries, to reprocess the proposal so that the subject could be reheard.”

There is also opposition at the Foreign Ministry to giving responsibility for combatting BDS to Erdan and the Strategic Affairs Ministry, on the argument that this would damage the Foreign Ministry’s own authority. Foreign Ministry representatives who participated in Wednesday’s security cabinet session presented their reservations, and ministry director general Dore Gold, who was in Berlin at the time of the meeting, conveyed his own reservations via his staff. Nevertheless, in light of the fact that the prime minister, who supports the plan, also serves as foreign minister, the stance of the Foreign Ministry staff – as in a number of other instances in recent months – is simply for the record.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism