US Secretary of State John Kerry freely used scare tactics, such as a fresh Palestinian “intifada,’ international boycotts and isolation, to cow Israel into signing on the dotted line when the framework accord he has drawn up is submitted to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
At the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Feb. 1, “Mr. Interim agreement,” as he is known in diplomatic circles for his partial deals on Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical arsenal, Kerry snapped back at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s claim to have brought Israel a period of relative calm, by calling it “an illusion.”
Clearly, this was just a mild foretaste of the coercive tactics in store for Israel when the time comes round to approve a final accord with the Palestinians.
“Boycotts of Israel are amoral and unjustified and will not achieve their aims,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday, Feb. 2: "First of all, they cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their intransigent positions and push peace farther away, and secondly, no pressure will cause me to give way on Israel’s vital interests, first and foremost the security of its citizens."
His comments were quickly rejected by the State Department. The Secretary was merely describing the situation exactly as it is, said a spokesperson, and his record of dedication to Israel's security goes back three decades.
However, debkafile’s sources note with comparable accuracy that since Kerry last year warned Israel of a new intifada, Palestinian terrorist strikes against Israeli targets have proliferated for the first time in years.
It is a matter of record that Israel-Palestinian peacemaking has always had its flip side. The aftermath of a former framework accord, which actually got signed by both sides in Oslo, vividly illustrated the recurring cycle of one peace process after another breaking down under escalating Palestinian terrorist violence followed by expanded Jewish settlement.
In accordance with the Declaration of Principles on Interim (Palestinian) Self-Government signed in Oslo in 1993, Israel dissolved its military government in Palestinian areas in 1995 and turned over the seven main cities of Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron – and virtually all the West Bank’s 1.4 million Palestinians – to Palestinian jurisdiction.
Yet terrorist attacks never abated and, in 2000, the year Israel offered Yasser Arafat independence in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank with east Jerusalem its capital, the Palestinian leader declared open war on the Jewish state with his “Al Aqsa Intifada” and years of death and destruction by suicide bombings and burnt buses.
So the charge of “occupation” does not exactly stand up even to the most cursory scrutiny – especially when the West Bank came under Israeli control in the first place as as the result of a defensive war fought and won against multiple Arab armies.
In the electrically charged Middle East climate, Kerry’s threats quickly became self-fulfilling prophecies.
His warning in Munich Saturday of an international boycott was followed the next day by news of Sweden’s Nordea Bank and Denmark’s Danske Bank, the largest banks in their respective countries, serving together over 16 million customers, actually blacklisting one of Israel’s three biggest banks, Bank Hapoalim, for maintaining branches “across the Green Line.”
The other two, Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot, faced the “demand” to “immediately make public their operations in the West Bank” – as though they were kept secret and owed Scandinavia an accounting.
However, pushing the button for the escalation of Palestinian terrorism and thespread of boycott action by pro-Palestinian financial and academic institutions was in line, debkafile’s sources report, with US-EU tactics for building up a volume of international and Israeli public high enough to scare Netanyahu into bowing to American dictates.
The US Secretary appears confident that his bullying won’t go too far or cause Israel irreparable harm. But he may not have taken into account that in this neighborhood, there is always a volunteer ready to strike the match for blowing up a combustible situation, especially after the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas laid the kindling and Kerry and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton heaped on the fuel.
At the same time, Israel holds two powerful weapons for fighting back, provided it has the will to deploy and use them: the IDF has time and again proved its mettle against terrorism; and US Jewry coupled with American popular support could defeat BDS – the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
There is no need of a grand announcement to launch a counter-BDS campaign. It is enough for American Jewish or other sympathetic banks and academic institutions to quietly make the punishment for boycotters fit the crime.
European bankers queuing in Tehran for post-sanctions business, while at the same time, boycotting Israeli banks doing business on the West Bank, should find themselves ostracized by American Jews.
The Danish and Swedish banks which blacklisted Israel institutions should see the backs of American business partners. British manufacturers and exporters who refuse to take orders from Israeli customers should see their goods pilling up unsold in American stores.
This battle demands clear-sighted, focused policies. What can’t work any longer is Netanyahu’s method of juggling all his options between right, left and center in the air, in the framework of a broad-based coalition government.
Last week, the pro-settlement minister of trade and industry, Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), condemned the prime minister’s peace policy from the right-wing perceptive. This week, Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) pulled the government in the opposition direction.
Bennett scored points in the prime minister’s own camp by blasting him for proposing to leave Jewish settlements under Palestinian jurisdiction. Lapid, who is already losing ground by behaving like a political amateur, is losing more points by cutting budget allocations to West Bank settlements and warning that international boycotts will throw thousands of Israelis out of work.
Lapid is seen as supporting US-EU intimidation efforts.