Boycotting Reality

Instead of welcoming Kerry, Netanyahu quarrels with him and refuses to understand that Israel's most essential interest is ending the conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement at the Munich Security Conference, that Israel will face boycotts should negotiations with the Palestinians fail, is a level-headed view of reality that the Israeli government chooses to continually ignore.

Two weeks ago, Denmark’s Danske Bank, the country’s largest, blacklisted Bank Hapoalim over its role in financing settlement construction. A week ago, Holland’s second largest pension fund, PGGM, announced that it was divesting from Israel’s five main banks, for similar reasons. Last Thursday, Norway’s Finance Ministry ordered the government pension fund not to invest in the Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus. Germany recently said it intends to condition a scientific cooperation agreement as well as grants to Israeli high-tech companies on the exclusion of companies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. In July, the European Union Commission released new guidelines forbidding EU organizations from providing grants or loans to Israeli organizations with ties to settlements. Even the compromise achieved over Horizon 2020 is indicative of the trend – Israel is losing legitimacy in the eyes of many European states.

Instead of working toward an agreement with the Palestinians that would fundamentally alter Israel’s political status, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet are trying to change the subject. It’s embarrassing to hear Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz demand 100 million shekels for a public campaign against the boycott movement. He doesn’t understand that the problem is policy, not public relations. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s claim that “settlements aren’t an obstacle to peace,” raises doubts over his ability to accurately perceive reality. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, on the other hand, prefers to chastise his underlings for saying the boycotts against Israel will only intensify, rather than addressing the reasons for the boycotts.

The prime minister beats them all: Instead of welcoming Kerry as an ally, he publicly quarrels with him and hints that the secretary of state is trying to pressure Israel to “give up essential interests.” Netanyahu refuses to understand that Israel’s most essential interest is ending the conflict, and that Kerry is a fair, dedicated, mediator who needs the support of all parties in order to complete this complex process. Netanyahu refuses to understand that now is the time for big decisions, not small politics.