Netanyahu convenes ministers to discuss growing Israel economic boycott threats
Knesset ministers to consider whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through diplomatic channels.
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz — Feb. 9, 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting Sunday evening to discuss how to cope with the growing threat of the economic boycott on Israel in light of continued occupation and settlement construction in the West Bank.
Senior Israeli officials said prior to the meeting that the plan was to try to decide on a strategy and determine whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.
The discussion had been scheduled to take place last week, but canceled at the last minute due to the political row between Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Sunday’s meeting will take place amid a different confrontation – this time between Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The previous discussion was supposed to include a broad forum of ministers. The Science Ministry asked to separate the discussion on the economic boycott threat from a discussion on the academic boycott threat, since there is already a strategy for the latter, while the former has yet to be dealt with.
The discussion, scheduled to begin at 5:30 P.M., will only include Lieberman, Bennett and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is expected to present a plan his ministry has been working on.
According to plan, Israel should be proactive in its opposition to organizations who promote boycotts against Israel. The plan proposes to invest substantial resources in organizing a public campaign.
Minister Steinitz is demanding a budget of 100 million shekels for implementation of the plan, which would include PR materials and aggressive legal and media campaigns against pro-boycott organizations.
The Foreign Ministry has a different approach. Diplomats think the non-governmental organizations pushing for a wide-ranging boycott against Israel and not strictly against the settlements are relatively marginal and that a public campaign against them will only play into their hands, bolstering them.
The Foreign Ministry thinks the public response to organizations promoting a boycott against Israel should be constricted. It wants to focus on less public diplomatic activity to combat such initiatives and believes advancing the peace process with the Palestinians will stave off a large portion of the boycott threats.
One of the issues to be discussed at the meeting is whether to file legal suits in European and North American courts against organizations that are proponents of the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ministers will also consider whether to take legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements, or boycott Israeli companies that are somehow operating in or connected to the settlements.
Another consideration is whether to activate the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., specifically AIPAC, in order to promote legislation in Congress against the economic boycott of Israel, akin to the legislation that was passed in the 1970’s against the Arab boycott.
One of the issues that will be raised during the discussion is that there is a lack of knowledge and inefficient tracking by Israeli intelligence of pro-BDS organizations.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry has provided the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence department a budget of several million shekels for the purpose of bolstering military surveillance of such organizations. However, the need for the prime minister to instruct the Shin Bet Security Service and the Mossad on the efforts is likely to come up.