Monday, February 03, 2014

Israel: Dealing With Boycotts, Lies And Intimidation

My latest is up at the Times of's a slice:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is sitting down with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Kerry, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister to discuss his 'framework agreement' designed to extend negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to the end of 2014 and to make plans for supporting it.

The talks are being held in Munich, with the murderous irony obviously escaping Kerry and the others. And Secretary Kerry had a few words to say to Israel about the need for them to knuckle under, warning that Israel's relative security and prosperity that's bound to collapse if the Palestinians don't get what they want:

"The risks are very high for Israel. People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure. We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution," Kerry said. "Today's status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It's not sustainable. It's illusionary. There's a momentary prosperity, there's a momentary peace."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet weighed in sharply against what appeared to be a threat in order to force Israel into unsafe strategic concessions:

"The attempts to boycott the State of Israel are not moral or justified," Netanyahu said. "Moreover, they will not achieve their purpose. Firstly, they only serve to make the Palestinians become more entrenched in their stance of refusal. Secondly, no pressure will make me abandon the State of Israel's vital interests, of which security of the civilian population is foremost."

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz also spoke out, calling Kerry's comments "offensive, unfair and intolerable."

"You can't force the State of Israel to negotiate with a gun to our heads while we are discussing the most critical of our national security interests."

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that "the advice-givers" should know that Israel will not abandon its land because of economic threats. "We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded in a statement claiming that Secretary Kerry has a long history of supporting Israel and opposes boycotts.

Then. like clockwork, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU ambassador to Israel weighed in, saying that 'of course' Israel would be blamed if the peace talks with Mahmoud Abbas collapse, and that Israel would likely endure “increasing isolation” .

“If the talks are wrecked as a result of an Israeli settlement [construction] announcement, then the blame will be put squarely on Israel’s doorstep,” the EU envoy said. If Israel’s actions result in the talks’ breakdown, “naturally and logically [Israel] will be to blame,” he said.

“If Israel continues to expand its presence beyond the Green Line, without a peace agreement being signed, it “will find itself increasingly isolated,” he predicted. “Not necessarily because of any decisions taken at a government level but because of decisions taken by a myriad of private economic actors, be it companies, be it pension funds, be it consumers who will be choosing other product on the supermarket shelves.”

While we can certainly swallow this for the sake of diplomacy, let's not be under any illusions here.

Senator Kerry does indeed have a records of supporting Israel, one that was created while he was a senator in a state with an influential Jewish population and subject to re-election in order to retain his senate seat. Now, he works for President Obama and doesn't need top worry about being re-elected, with all that entails.

And there's no doubt in my mind that what he said was being used by design as a threat. Last September when the talks began, no less than senior PLO negotiator Nabil Shaath was complaining, saying that they had been 'enticed' into the talks by the new EU guidelines boycotting Israeli entities beyond the 1948 ceasefire lines but that the U.S. had talked the EU into postponing them..for now.

Established American law circa 1977 exists making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel or deal with foreign companies that do, imposing stiff penalties on any that fail to comply. Had the Obama Administration wanted the EU boycotts quashed completely, a mere mention of these laws would have been sufficient.

As for the remarks of Lars Faaborg-Andersen, they are so disingenuous as to defy belief. So it won't be government actions but private ones? When the EU's official policy is to turn part of Israel into a walled ghetto in order to appease their restive Muslim populations and force Israel into concessions? The EU finessed this to a degree in order to attract Israeli funding and technological expertise for its Horizon 2020 project, but make no mistake that this is official EU government policy as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was at pains to emphasize, and that the EU will have no qualms about extending it to all of Israel no matter what Israel does or doesn't do.

You'll also notice that no one in the Quartet is talking about any pressure on Abbas and the PLO if a deal falls through, which makes it increasingly likely that the PLO will engineer something to torpedo the talks. And why not? The EU just gave them a huge incentive to do exactly that.

So what should Israel do to counteract this? What actions should it consider?

The first thing to remember is that while land and strategic concessions given to the Palestinians and the Arab states last a long time, political situations in Western countries can change relatively quickly with every election.

For instance, For instance, Australia's foreign minister recently questioned the whole rationale behind considering Jewish commu8nities in Judea and Samaria 'illegal'...which of course, they aren't except to the EU. Canada's stance on Israel and the Palestinians used to pretty much mirror the EU's. Not any more, as Canadian PM Harper's recent visit proved. Nor is Canada likely to go along with any BDS-style boycotts:

Australia, China, The U.S. and India along with a number of other countries remain prime markets for what Israel has to sell.

The EU itself may not even be in existence a couple of years from now.Nor is every current EU country likely to go along all that strictly with its anti-Israel policies even if it is.

Not only does Israel have the option of increasing its trade with other markets, but Israel also has the option of taking direct action against discriminatory EU policies.

Read the rest here .


B.Poster said...

"Had the Obama Administration wanted the EU boycotts quashed completely, a mere mention of these laws would have been sufficient." Actually it would not have been. The end result would have likely been the EU would have cut off trade with the EU in import and export markets, drop all support for the dollar as world reserve currency, and draw closer to Russia whom they depend on for much of their oil supplies among other things. While such actions would hurt the EU nations, they would hurt America far worse. American officials, EU officials, and officials within the EU nations all understand this as does Mr. Kerry.

The centerpiece of EU foreign policy is the creation of another Arab state carved out of Israel. As such, they would very likely hurt America acting to cripple it's economy and halt all cooperation with America in areas of national security if a mention of the 1977 law were made in order to try and get the EU to drop the threats of a boycott of Israel. It's not a simple as a "mere mention" of things like this.

Truth is Mr. Kerry and the Obama Administration are completely powerless to affect EU policy regarding Israeli boycotts or pretty much anything else. For what it's worth, I think the Obama Administration does NOT want to oppose boycotts of Israel and is agreement with the EU position on this. The point is even if they wanted to "quash" this, they can't.

With that said, I think you are spot on the other options that Israel has with regards to trade and other situations that you mention at the end of your post, however, it seems unlikely the EU would not exist in a couple of years. France and Germany will go to war before they let the other nations of the EU go their own way. Ultimately this may be inevitable. Attempts to hold the EU together will only lead to war as nations with such radically different cultures and interests cannot possibly adhere to any kind of union in this manner.

What is more likely than the EU not existing in a couple of years is America ceasing to exist. It's survival already hangs by a thread. It's major competitors could finish it off at any time with minimal effort but as Napoleon once said why intervene when your enemy is destroying himself!!

While Western policies can and do change with elections, you are correct to point this out, you mention Australia and Canada. while their support is good, I don't think it could be relied upon. These countries are simply to far away and they lack the political power to play any significant role in this situation. They might make good trading partners though but are unlikely to be able to be of much assistance politically or militarily.

Actually the entire "West" is likely to be politically irrelevant within the next 5 years. With the EU imploding due to internal problems and likely facing internal strife it figures to be preoccupied. As for America, it is unlikely to even exist in two years. Even if it does manage to somehow hang on, it does not figure to be an important nation in world events. The sooner Israel separates from America and the "west" the better actually.

B.Poster said...

There's always been a common thread running through the "peace talks." This is unconditional support for the Palestinians and either no support or highly conditional support for Israel much like Israel receives from America. If we truly want a peaceful situation that involves a two state solution, either all support for the Palestinians needs to be withdrawn or it needs to be made highly conditional much like what Israel receives from America.

As long as long as the Palestinians receive this level of unconditional support, they have no incentive to negotiate in good faith. Removal of this support would put the parties on more equal footing. In such an environment, the Palestinians would have much more incentive to negotiate in good faith.

If an end goal of two states living side by side in peace is truly the goal, this is the first thing that needs to happen yet unconditional support for the Palestinians continues unabated. Either a peaceful solution is not desired or the leaders are to blinded by ideology to understand the problem.

B.Poster said...

I read your article in its entirety. You are spot on especially with the last part. I sometimes wonder why Israel even works with the US at all. It would be so much better off without the current relationship with the US that it currently has. In fact, both nations would be better off if the nature of the current relationship changed!! I suspect this continues because of special interests within both nations desire it to continue even though it is to the detriment of both nations as a whole.

The last paragraph could apply equally to America as it does to Israel. Relying on foreign arrangements is not going to end well for either nation. America should likewise put more trust in its capable people and its brave warriors and less faith in institutions like NATO, the UN, IMF, or the other various alphabet soup of international agencies.