Contrary to Bennett’s statements, sources in Jerusalem say threat of European boycotts on Israel is real
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said this week that the talk of boycotts – based on a lack of progress in the peace talks – is absurd.
The following story is being published here thanks to the economy minister, Naftali Bennett. On Monday morning, Bennett, who was on a visit to China, was interviewed on Army Radio, based in Jaffa. The minister heaped scorn on “senior” ministers (using both the male and female forms of the adjective) who are constantly scaring us with tales presaging global isolation, boycotts and economic sanctions unless the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
“I have been traveling the world for years with my companies,” the former high-tech man said, “and I am not familiar with anything like that. Who in the world, from Beijing to Washington, in South Carolina or in Wales, takes an interest in this conflict? What interests people is prices, the economy, industry, growth.”
Bennett’s remarks severely rankled a very important person in a very important bureau in Jerusalem, someone who is highly knowledgeable about developments in the international community and the business world, and about the intricacies of the effort to kick-start peace talks with the Palestinians. Here’s what he has to tell us − and through us, the minister who is in charge of industry, trade and employment.
A few weeks ago, the relevant departments at the highest levels of the Israeli government received a disturbing report. The report began by noting that large banks in Europe that operate globally draw on the aid of consultaning firms known as “investment committees.” Every so often, these committees submit a report to their clients with recommendations about where to invest − and where not to invest. The process of examining the Israeli companies that operate inWest Bank settlements involved the exercise of due diligence.
According to the report that landed on the relevant desks here, a large number of those investment committees considered recommending to the banks to prohibit loans or aid of any kind to Israeli companies that operate in the West Bank − manufacturing there, selling their products, building homes and so forth − and also to Israeli banks that grant mortgages to home builders or buyers across the Green Line. For Mr. Bennett’s information, the rationale for this far-reaching step is the protracted deadlock in the non-process, the continued occupation and the construction that never stops for a moment, though it might sometimes slow down a little, in both the settlement blocs and isolated settlements.
This is the nightmare scenario, this is the economic tsunami that has been talked about in the past, the mother of all fears. And this even before thePalestinians make good on their threat, which continues to hover above the empty negotiating table: to request admission to some 15 international judiciary bodies, such as the International Criminal Court − a move that would have serious implications for Israel’s judicial status in the world, to put it mildly.
Returning to the story of the banks from about a month ago: After the relevant individuals in Israel fully grasped the implications, feverish but quiet activity was launched, through the Israeli officials’ European counterparts, to prevent the appearance of these recommendations in the reports of the investment committees that apparently were considering formulating them. One of the arguments put forward by the Israelis was that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was just then shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah in an effort to get the talks restarted. Dropping an economic bomb of that size onto the diplomatic arena, it was argued, would doom Kerry’s efforts to certain failure.
The European economists were apparently persuaded. For the time being, at least, they have abandoned this approach. Nevertheless, the very worried senior personage said this week, the danger has not yet passed. Far from it: It’s only a matter of time, and time, contrary to what Bennett thinks, is not on our side.