US Ambassador Dan Shapiro addresses Jpost Diplomatic Conference.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The best way to attack the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is for the United States and Israel to improve their economic ties, US Ambassador to the Israel Dan Shapiro said on Wednesday as he addressed the 2016 Herzliya Conference.
“No one should have any doubt that the policy of the US government is to vigorously oppose and counter such initiatives,” Shapiro said.
“Our actions speak even louder than our words. Others may advocate boycotting Israel – but we are doing the exact opposite. We are actively seeking to deepen our economic partnership with Israel,” said Shapiro.
“We encourage American companies to invest in Israel, and then celebrate their successes. We are recruiting Israeli businesses to invest in the United States,” he added.
The United States has a long history of standing firm against boycotts that target Israel, Shapiro said, recalling that the Arab countries had imposed an oil embargo against America in the 1970s.
Rather then buckling under the blackmail, Shapiro said, the US increased its support for Israel and outlaws compliances with Arab boycotts and “doubled down” on diplomatic efforts to make peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
“We believe the steps we take to reject and oppose efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel have a deadening effect on attempts by others, including more recently debated boycott and divestment measures by non-profits and local groups,” Shapiro said.
In contrast the US is wants to generate more trade, economic partnerships, investments and joint R & D.
“I can tell you that if today’s economic landscape seems impressive, my prediction is tomorrow’s will be nothing short of breathtaking,” Shapiro said.
The US Embassy has organized for later this year a tour of the Eastern Galilee for “American multinational companies that are leaders in the food and beverage sector, including medical foods, Shapiro said.
Israel and the US need to modernize and upgrade the frameworks that govern their economic relationship to adjust for this century, so that it takes into account new areas of technological and clean energy investments, he said.
The countries’ annual trade amounts to some $49 billion and there are ongoing trade discussions on how to increase that sum, particularly by reducing bureaucracy and eliminating fees.
“We have encouraged Israel to eliminate remaining tariffs, quotas, and non-tariff trade barriers that hinder US exports,” he said.
If those tariffs were eliminated, he said, the US could export more raisins, prunes, cheese, frozen vegetables and even grape juice to Israel.
An agreement was reached to renew American beef exports to Israel for the first time in over a decade.
“Soon, these high-quality, delicious, kosher US beef products will be available to Israeli consumers,” he said.
Aside from economics, Shapiro said, tangible progress toward a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would also help weaken BDS and those who seek to isolate Israel.
Supports of BDS have an “anti-Israel” agenda and in some cases even an anti-Semitic one that has no relationship to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Shapiro said.
But progress on the Israeli- Palestinian track could influence “those who support a two-state solution, but who might be tempted by the misguided arguments of the BDS movement,” Shapiro said.
“One of our most effective tools to defeat boycotts and delegitimization is the presentation of a political process, negotiations, or some political horizon that gives hope for two states,” he said.
It is important, therefore, for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negations, which have been frozen for more than two years, Shapiro said.
He called on both parties not to take steps to harm the viability of a two-state solution and on Israel in particular to avoid settlement expansion.