The Histadrut Labor Federation voted this week to cut all ties with organizations that back boycotts of Israel and warned that blacklisting Israel would only hurt the union's good relations with Palestinian trade unions.
"The recent move by the British trade unions demanding boycotts of Israel will have the opposite impact of what they are hoping for. The boycott against the Histadrut is likely to damage the good relationship the Histadrut has established with the Palestinian unions," Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said on Monday in Tel Aviv.
He was speaking to Palestinian, European and Japanese labor representatives at a conference organized by the Histadrut.
"We are condemning any form of boycott and we will not hesitate to cut all ties with organizations which boycott Israel."
This month, the UK's 800,000-member Transport and General Workers Union joined the growing roster of British labor unions declaring or considering economic boycotts of Israel in protest against "the treatment of the Palestinian people." Similarly, Britain's largest union, UNISON, last month advocated a total boycott of Israel over its occupation of the West Bank.
"We have come here to say that there is no problem between the Palestinian people and the Histadrut trade union. We look for dialogue and a way to live together in peace," Mahmoud Abu Odeh, executive member of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, told The Jerusalem Post. "We are here to sit together and solve the problem of the Palestinian workers through dialogue and we want the Histadrut to help ease the problem of Palestinian workers coming to work in Israel."
Abu Odeh added that the stringent procedures at checkpoints were making it very difficult for Palestinian workers to come to Israel. "Particularly since the rise of the Hamas government, the economy has frozen and families cannot provide for their children," he said.
The representative of the International Trade Union Confederation, Mamounata Cisse-Guira, who also attended the conference, said peace would only be advanced through dialogue and cooperation.
"We will do everything to create dialogue to solve this problem," said Cisse-Guira. "The call for a boycott is not a fast solution and would be bad for Israeli and Palestinian workers. If at all, a boycott motion represents the last resort."
Cisse-Guira said parallels with boycotts of apartheid South Africa were not valid. "The big difference compared with the situation in South Africa is the fact that both countries, Israel and the UK, are democratic and that Israel wants peace," she said.
Wolfgang Lutterbach, head of the Confederation of German Trade Unions' International Department, said the UK boycott of Israel was "complete nonsense," advocated by a small, radical group within the Trade Union Congress, the umbrella organization of British trade unions.