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Israel is egging the boycott movement on

In attempting to hold off European plans to label West Bank settlement products, Israel could easily overplay its hand. The Netanyahu government’s bunker mentality will only increase international isolation.

Benjamin Netanyahu greets EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20, 2015. (EU photo)

Benjamin Netanyahu greets EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20, 2015. (EU photo)

It’s pretty difficult to find a minister in the Israeli government who will go on record supporting a two-state solution in any sincere terms these days. Of course we want a Palestinian state, they say, but god forbid we hand over control of the West Bank and withdraw our troops.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been saying as much for years. “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” Benjamin Netanyahu said last summer, long before his now-famous dis– and subsequent re-avowal of the two-state solution.

It’s pretty clear these days that the status quo of occupation — and all it entails — is here to stay for the time being. There is no peace process, nor is there any reason to think a new peace process could succeed as long as the current Israeli leadership is in power.

In an interview laying out her strategy to fight EU labeling of settlement products, a strategy that might sound absurd to someone unversed in the absurdity of Israeli intransigence vis-à-vis the occupation, acting Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Hotoveli told the Times of Israel:

The EU wants to make the point that the West Bank is not a part of Israel, she said. But according to the official policy of the Israeli government, “[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” she announced. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while professing to support the creation of a Palestinian state in principle, “never said that the evacuation of Judea and Samaria is an option. He says we learned the lessons of the [2005 Gaza] Disengagement and that the world needs to get used to this idea. That’s one of the messages that I place great emphasis on.”

The world needs to internalize that the West Bank is to remain under Israeli “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said. “It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it, certainly not for the Islamic State or al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations that would sure to gain control over the territory.”

Yes. You read that correctly. A handover of the West Bank isn’t negotiable, there will be no sovereign Palestinian state, and the rest of the world just needs to get used to it.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Likud MK and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Never mind how far the European Union has been bending over backwards — the type of contortions that should raises serious doubts as to the integrity of its spine — in order to reassure Israel that accurately distinguishing products from illegal West Bank settlements is not a boycott of Israel itself. There’s a bit more to the story.

Europe is selling settlement labeling as nothing more than an overdue implementation of EU law requiring the distinction between goods manufactured inside Israel proper, with which the EU has a free trade agreement, and those manufactured beyond its borders, i.e. in its West Bank settlements. That narrative is not inaccurate, but it is also not the whole story.

Carrots and sticks

Labeling settlement products is just one part of an EU’s attempt to advance the two-state solution through a series of carrots and sticks. The sticks involve punishing Israel for continued settlement expansion, first by targeting the settlements and settlers themselves, but which could ultimately threaten central aspects of the free trade agreement between Israel and the European block. To put the consequences of such an eventuality into context, as a bloc, the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner.

Along with the sticks, of course, are carrots — incentives for peace. The largest of those incentives for reaching a two-state solution is near-full economic integration into the EU, akin to the status of Switzerland and Norway. Needless to say that for an export-reliant market like Israel’s, the economic benefits of such integration would be game-changing, to say the least.

Israel has thus far rejected the very idea of EU rewards for peace. (The U.S. essentially bribed both Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan for the peace agreements it brokered between them, respectively.)

Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely even threatened that Israel will counter with its own punitive measures toward European countries that implement settlement labeling rules. “They, too, have something to lose,” she said in the Times of Israel interview.

Bunker mentality

The consequences she is threatening, however, are nothing short of laughable. Any country that labels West Bank settlement products will lose its influence in the peace process, according to Hotovely’s plan, which one can safely assume came directly from the desk of her boss, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Such an attitude illustrates the bunker mentality afflicting the entire Israeli government — and most of the opposition, for that matter. The more pressure levied against Israel to end the occupation, only one symptom of which is the settlements, the more Israel raises its middle fingers to the world.

But the world, and in this case, the EU, is losing patience with sexagenarian Israel’s teenage attitude. France is just waiting to set a deadline for ending the occupation in the UN Security Council, and the EU has far more punitive measures ready and waiting for decision-makers to sign off on.

More significantly, the pressure coming from regular citizens and civil society groups to end the occupation is growing rapidly and constantly. The BDS movement is moving fast on boycotts and divestment, sometimes of settlement companies and sometimes of everything and anything Israeli. If the Israeli government’s refusal to even consider ending the occupation continues for much longer, the S in BDS might just become a real thing.

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    COMMENTS

    1. RMA

      It has taken the EU 50 years to get to optional labeling of products that come only from the settlements. The small pockets of Europe that have tried to do the right thing have been massively attacked as anti-semites and have folded immediately. Mean while the US has passed legislation demanding trade wars with any country that passes boycott, divestment or sanction laws against Israel.

      While I support BDS it is not going gain any real traction. I don’t know how the Israel/Palestine thing will finally be resolved and I probably won’t live long enough to see it. I just know that politicians in the west will not allow it to be resolved peacefully. Western politicians will insure that a whole lot more blood is spilled because that is what their donors want.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians…It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it,”

      LoL. So much for 99% of Gustav’s tirelessly offered reasons why Israel would just love to cut a deal if only the lack of Palestinian goodwill did not stand in the way, the tragedy, we are so sorry, our hand extended in peace blah blah blah.

      Poof!

      Sanctions are the only nonviolent way to push the country to leave the territories.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        C’mon, Bennyleh, come to Papa… answer my question … don’t be shy…

        “But the West Bank is not Palestine. I see the Galilee, al-Quds [Jerusalem], Haifa and Acre also as part of Palestine.”

        Earth to Benny, are ya there? Which bit of the above sentence don’t you recognize as a zero sum game in which your Palestinian Arab bosom buddies claim not only the West Bank but Israel itself?

        These words were spoken by Sawsan Khalife, the person who will take over from Sheizaf and for whom you had nothing but best wishes. Do you still want to pretend that your saint Palestinians want to live in peace along side us?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Poof!

          LoL. The Israeli Foreign Minister blows out of the water two years worth of Gustav’s tireless hasbara efforts. Will he have an identity crisis now that his constant pose and talking point is so baldly discredited?

          I already answered you on Ms. Khalife in the thread to Elad Wolf’s article.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “I already answered you on Ms. Khalife in the thread to Elad Wolf’s article”

            Really? Then let’s see your answer…

            BEN:”We will have to see what she writes and not over interpret with malicious intent the words you quote”

            LOL. Here are Sawsan Khalife’s words again…

            “But the West Bank is not Palestine. I see the Galilee, al-Quds [Jerusalem], Haifa and Acre also as part of Palestine.”

            Which bits of that sentence of hers does not tell you that as far as she is concerned Israel too belongs to their proposed shiny Arab Islamic theocracy? Or at the least to another Arab doctatorship?

            As for your silly poof comment, so what? So now we too have an intransigent governent. But prior to this lot, our earlier governments offered peace terms which if your dear Palestinian Arabs would have accepted, they would have had their own state by now.

            Not only they didn’t accept, but they responded woth a bloody Intifada. So now they got Netanyahu and his merry men. Serves em’ right. Your “peace loving” Palestinian Arabs got what they asked for. But even now, if they would agree to a genuine peace deal which would involve their clear renunciation of their old policies of trying to eradicate the Jewish nation state, if Netanyahu would resist a peace deal even after that, we would vote him out of office. In the meanwhile though, we will support him to the hilt because he is what we need now. He is a strong leader who will not sell us out for a dud of a deal.

            And your bizarre response? The Palestinian Arabs did not accept the peace deals which previous Israeli governments offered because of Netanyahu?

            Much more likely, they did not accept because they profess the same beliefs as your much beloved Sawsan Khalife. But you will never be honest enough to acknowledge that.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Chris

      Why do people who don’t support peace even read this site? I was a child when the 7 day war happened. I am tired of American support of a government committed to destroying the Palestinian people. I have lived with this for 50 years. Enough. People armed with rocks are not a threat to a nation with nuclear weapons.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jason Kidd

        The 7 day war. Lol
        How typical of the propalistinian crowd

        Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        “People armed with rocks are not a threat to a nation with nuclear weapons”

        Ya grew up with this for 50 years? Then how did you miss the suicide bombing campaign which your “rock wielding” Palestinian Arabs conducted against us between 2000 and 2004?!!!!!

        Armed with rocks only? C’mon man, you guys went into Afghanistan after 9/11. We had the equivalent of several 9/11s since 1948 thanks to these “rock throwers” you have nuclear bombs too but you did not ignore the attacks against you. Why do you expect us to be better than you?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Jason Kidd

      BDS is hypocritical, antisemitic, and antiamerican.

      The only solution is 2S42P. This means no pRoR.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      Pretty funny. An anti-occupation person who just says, why, anything at all, is so routinely labelled “an anti-Semite.” But a pro-occupation right winger who says all sorts of crazy sh*t about “f*ing Jews” and says America would be a better place if everybody was Christian, all Jews should become Christians, the latter being “perfected Jews”? Well, the pro-occupation guys bend over backwards and take great pains with infinite care to explain why the lady is not, not, not an anti-Semite. It’s too funny. And suddenly start having epiphanies and saying sensible things about “We need to be very careful before labeling people anti-Semites.” You don’t say? Nothing better gives the lie to the scurrilous charges of anti-Semitism flung by pro-occupationists at those who oppose the occupation.

      http://m.jpost.com/?Mobileid=2#article=6017RkU3OURDODc3QzIyOUNCNDQyMTI3RUYwQkE0NDBENTY=

      Ann Coulter is not an anti-Semite
      By DENNIS PRAGER,JTA
      Sun, 27 Sep 2015, 10:19 PM
      Talk show host Dennis Prager authors an op-ed piece for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        “Pretty funny. An anti-occupation person who just says, why, anything at all, is so routinely labelled “an anti-Semite.”

        Yes if they concentrate ONLY admonishing the Jewish state while resolutely ignoring everything that Palestinian Arab leaders and their people say and do.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Felixio

      Hotoveli looks so Semite, maybe she is right, maybe she is. Never than less Palestine is not going to be Israel.

      Reply to Comment