Analysis: Differentiation clause will boost BDS

These moves could be just the tip of the iceberg.

December 25, 2016 01:59
3 minute read.
44km of new concrete wall are being built along the Green Line west of Hebron to prevent terror infi

44km of new concrete wall are being built along the Green Line west of Hebron to prevent terror infiltration in an area known as a porous section of border. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)


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The anti-settlement resolution that the US allowed to pass through the UN Security Council on Friday includes language that Israel is well familiar with, and has ignored in the past.

For the UN to condemn the settlements, say that they are obstacles to peace that imperil the viability of a two-state solution and that they are a violation of international law is nothing new.

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What is new, and could open doors to actions that harm Israeli interests, is clause No. 5, which calls upon the nations of the world “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

This measure, if taken seriously by the international community, may trigger a slew of initiatives that could make the labeling of settlement products in Europe seem tame by comparison.

Differentiation or distinction is an idea that has been pushed hard over the last two years by some policy wonks in Europe as a way to force Israel’s hand on the settlements.

But it is something that, until now, even the EU has not adopted as policy.

The overriding idea is to draw a firm legal line between pre- and post-1967 Israel, and have the world’s relations with Israel reflect that line.

The idea came on the radar screen in a serious way in July 2015, when the London-headquartered pan-European think tank called the European Council on Foreign Relations published a paper titled “EU Differentiation and Israeli Settlements.”

“Differentiation is one of the most impactful tools at the EU’s disposal for challenging the incentive structure underpinning Israeli support for the status quo,” the paper read.

“The EU and its member states must acknowledge and own differentiation as a full-fledged policy by giving it a name and referencing it in official statements issued at the senior political level.”

The idea was to “differentiate between Israel and its settlements project in the day-to-day conduct of bilateral relations” and exclude any Israeli activity beyond the 1967 lines from the “depth, breadth and closeness of European-Israeli ties.”

“One consequence of Oslo’s failure is that in Israel there is now something of a consensus that the settlement enterprise can be managed and expanded without incurring any tangible costs,” the paper read. “Consequently, Israel’s political leaders and voting public can discount the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and settlement issue to an unprecedented degree as they go about their daily lives, make their political choices, and set their governing policies.”

The concept of differentiation, therefore, is to make the Israeli public feel the heat for the government’s settlements policy.

The paper suggested various ways to carry out this “differentiation,” ideas that – as a result of the UN resolution – can now be expected to gain traction around the world.

Among the ideas raised in the paper was preventing European banks from providing financing to their Israeli counterparts with dealings in the settlements; preventing Israelis holding dual European citizenship from using property in the settlements as collateral for European loans; doing away with the tax-exempt status for charities funding activities in the settlements; and not accepting qualifications from academic, medical and other Israeli institutions based in the West Bank.

And those moves could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Since east Jerusalem also falls into the category of territories that need to be “differentiated,” this means that countries that want to adopt this resolution would also not be able to deal with Israeli institutions based there, such as the Justice Ministry and Israel Police headquarters.

Friday’s resolution is not binding on anyone. But it does now give legitimization to countries, financial institutions and business to take measures to boycott any Israeli institution that has any dealings in the settlements.

At a time when the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement seems to have lost momentum, largely because of legal moves against it, this UN Security Council resolution will give it renewed traction.

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