The Israeli public has been warned recently that its nation state is about to fall off a cliff and drown in a sea of (BDS) Boycotts, Divestiture, and Sanctions if the peace process fails to advance. Haaretz’s July 15th editorial, “Danger: Boycott Ahead”, cautioned that Israel is facing its moment of truth”. Haaretz also reported that Justice Minister Tzippy Livni admonished a packed business forum in Eilat on July 2nd that absent a peace agreement with the Palestinians, the state of Israel could face a full EU boycott.
Regretfully, anti-Israel boycott warnings by Israeli officials -have achieved the opposite of their intended goals; instead of weakening BDS , they have emboldened boycotts, inspired sanctions, and increased divesture efforts in the West. Israeli public warnings over inevitable boycotts have also encouraged the Palestinian leadership to avoid peace negotiations with Israel and act unilaterally at the UN while leveling criminal accusations and other charges at Israel at international fora such as the ICJ, the ICC and UNESCO.
The Palestinian Authority has adopted this political assault strategy since PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ rejected former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s far reaching peace offer in 2008 Olmert said at the time that, “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished".
It is no irony that Olmert’s unprecedented ” end of conflict” peace offer to Abbas who rejected the entreaty telling the Washington Post at the time, “The gaps were wide”, coupled with Olmert’s “end of days” admonition for Israel resulted in increased PA led BDS efforts and a Palestinian rejection of negotiations that have characterized the past five years of diplomatic stalemate.
Israel’s housing starts in Northern and Southern Jerusalem which have been frozen recently and other home building which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has limited to the major settlement blocks in line with Oslo are largely irrelevant to the underlying Palestinian- BDS strategy.
These BDS campaigns are not focused on settlements in Judea and Samaria or Israel’s sovereignty over its capital, Jerusalem. BDS groups such as the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) that was recently exposed by Professor Gerald Steinberg and the NGO monitor, targets Israel as an inherently illegitimate, criminal entity like apartheid South Africa, regardless of borders. BDS organizations -- whether in academia, commerce, sports or the arts are led by scores of Palestinian civil society groups that charge Israel’s lack of legitimacy as based on three major components as emphasized by the Palestinian BDS national Committee; Palestinian refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the “discriminated” Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state.
This three part strategy explains why the BDS regimes consider Israel to be an illegal settlement even in its truncated 1949 armistice lines. BDS groups and activists make no secret of their agenda. Take a look at Israel bashing BDS conferences on You Tube.
Regretfully, the Palestinian driven BDS strategy is misunderstood by many in Israel and friends of Israel abroad as being limited to the struggle for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. BDS groups-- whether in Ramallah, London or San Franciso make no secret of their battle for a Palestinian State to replace the nation state of the Jewish people, not live alongside it.
The Israeli public has paid a high price in blood and treasure in its search for peace; Since 1993 and the launch of the Oslo peace process, some 1,500 Israelis have been killed and billions of unintended tax dollars expended on unanticipated security measures due to increased terror. The list of peace attempts is long; The 1993 Oslo Exchange of Letters, the 1995 Interim Agreement, the 2000 unilateral withdrawal from the security zone in Southern Lebanon, the 2000 Camp David Accords resulting in the Al Aksa Intifada, the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza resulting in Hamas rocket assaults and two rocket wars, Iran backed Hizbullah’s 2006 Second Lebanon war, and the 2008 Annapolis Peace offer to the Palestinians.
The international community would be hard pressed to identify any country that has taken more risks for peace.
Today, in a Middle East region dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafist and Iranian regime backed radical Islamic terror groups in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Iraq, and North Africa, Israel approaches prospective peace negotiations prudently and cautiously.
In short, Israelis have developed an immunity to “Armageddon” BDS scenarios. That is why official calls from both “family and friends” to the Israeli public to hurry up and concede additional territory vital to its national rights and security because “more boycotts are on the way” will not only fail to advance the peace process, they will inadvertently help Israelis adversaries destroy it.
The writer is a Foreign Policy Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs and former Secretary General of the Word Jewish Congress.