US Secretary of State John Kerry is not anti-Semitic but those who support boycotts against Israel are, Economic Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) told American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Monday.
Bennett spoke in defense of Kerry, who had been pilloried by other members of the Bayit Yehudi party for comments he made a few weeks ago warning that failure to arrive at a two-state solution with the Palestinians, could strengthen the boycott movement against Israel.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel has since publicly suggested that Kerry was anti-Semitic for raising an old stereotype that Jews are concerned only with money.
“Kerry is no anti-Semite. Who ever suggests that is flatly wrong. We might sometimes disagree, but America is our biggest friend, our strategic friend and an ally,” Bennett said.
But those who want to boycott Israel are anti-Semitic, he explained.
“Boycotting Israel is an unacceptable approach, it is a new form of anti-Semitism. Make no mistake, it is not friendly criticism,” said Bennett.
He urged the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to speak up against this phenomenon.
“It is fine to be critical of Israel, but it is one thing to be critical and another to boycott,” he said.
Still, Bennett said, he did not believe that it was possible for the international community to boycott Israel given how the significant role its technological inventions played in people’s lives.
“Sometimes I think what would happen to the world if it boycotted Israelis technology,” he pondered.
“You wouldn’t wake up in the morning with your cellphone, which is your alarm clock, because the chip inside is made in Israel.
“After not waking up, you wouldn't be able to receive a call. You would go to your computer, but it wouldn't work because the chip inside from Intel, is made in Israel.
“Then on your way to work you would get lost because [the directional App] Waze is made in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of people with stents in their heart would stop, because the stents are made in Israel.
“Water irrigation systems around the world would stop. All of the bank accounts in North America would be open to fraudsters because its Israeli protected technology. I can go on and on,” Bennett said.
“The world needs Israel. Israel needs the world,” he added.
The boycott movement is not succeeding, as Israel’s economy continues to grow, he said.
Bennett explained that he did not believe Israel should give up Area C of the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of a two-state solution, both for security reasons and because Jewish ties to that area dated back to the Bible.
“There is no occupation. You can’t occupy your own home. Any Christian, Muslim or Jews in the world can open the Bible and see that Beit El and Hebron have been our home for 3,800 years. Open up the book. It is simple Hebrew, I am always available to translate if it you need it,” Bennett said.
It is a mistake, he said, to create a Palestinian state at a time when Arab nation states are failing, he said.
But there can be Palestinian self-governance, Bennett said. He also said that it was important to increase joint Israelis and Palestinians business ventures.
In response to a question, Bennett said that Israel, which formally annexed east Jerusalem in the early 1980s, had on the ground not fully established sovereignty over its Arab neighborhoods in that city.
Israel is now taking more steps to increase its sovereignty over east Jerusalem by improving its services to Israeli Arabs who live there, he said.
“What we are doing is gradually we are applying more and more Israeli sovereignty,” he said.
“When you entered eastern side if Jerusalem, you would see roads that are run down. It still that case, but we are equalizing it, with better services to Arabs, increasing the cleanliness of the streets, improving police actions, so it is no longer a lawless area. This includes all of eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Gradually we are increasing the exercise of law in all of Jerusalem,” Bennett said.