February 12th, 2014

Wel­come to the smell of fu­til­ity. The last months have seen an avalanche of Zion­ists, lib­eral Zion­ists, colum­nists and fear-mon­gers claim­ing that boy­cotts against Is­rael are dan­ger­ous, yet of­fer­ing noth­ing to end the oc­cu­pa­tion.

The lat­est, via Haaretz, is the Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment po­ten­tially spend­ing huge dol­lars on at­tack­ing BDS back­ers. There’s one small prob­lem (as usual): it’s about spin and does noth­ing to end daily vi­o­lence against Pales­tini­ans:

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu con­vened a meet­ing Sun­day evening to dis­cuss how to cope with the grow­ing threat of the eco­nomic boy­cott on Is­rael in light of con­tin­ued oc­cu­pa­tion and set­tle­ment con­struc­tion in the West Bank.

Se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cials said prior to the meet­ing that the plan was to try to de­cide on a strat­egy and de­ter­mine whether to launch an ag­gres­sive pub­lic cam­paign or op­er­ate through qui­eter, diplo­matic chan­nels.

The dis­cus­sion had been sched­uled to take place last week, but can­celed at the last minute due to the po­lit­i­cal row be­tween Ne­tanyahu and Econ­omy Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett. Sun­day’s meet­ing will take place amid a dif­fer­ent con­fron
tation – this time be­tween Ben­nett and For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man.

The pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion was sup­posed to in­clude a broad forum of min­is­ters. The Sci­ence Min­istry asked to sep­a­rate the dis­cus­sion on the eco­nomic boy­cott threat from a dis­cus­sion on the aca­d­e­mic boy­cott threat, since there is al­ready a strat­egy for the lat­ter, while the for­mer has yet to be dealt with.

The dis­cus­sion, sched­uled to begin at 5:30 P.M., will only in­clude Lieber­man, Ben­nett and Strate­gic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Yuval Steinitz, who is ex­pected to pre­sent a plan his min­istry has been work­ing on.

Ac­cord­ing to plan, Is­rael should be proac­tive in its op­po­si­tion to or­ga­ni­za­tions who pro­mote boy­cotts against Is­rael. The plan pro­poses to in­vest sub­stan­tial re­sources in or­ga­niz­ing a pub­lic cam­paign.

Min­is­ter Steinitz is de­mand­ing a bud­get of 100 mil­lion shekels for im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan, which would in­clude PR ma­te­ri­als and ag­gres­sive legal and media cam­paigns against pro-boy­cott or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The For­eign Min­istry has a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Diplo­mats think the non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions push­ing for a wide-rang­ing boy­cott against Is­rael and not strictly against the set­tle­ments are rel­a­tively mar­ginal and that a pub­lic cam­paign against them will only play into their hands, bol­ster­ing them.

The For­eign Min­istry thinks the pub­lic re­sponse to
or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­mot­ing a boy­cott against Is­rael should be con­stricted. It wants to focus on less pub­lic diplo­matic ac­tiv­ity to com­bat such ini­tia­tives and be­lieves ad­vanc­ing the peace process with the Pales­tini­ans will stave off a large por­tion of the boy­cott threats.

One of the is­sues to be dis­cussed at the meet­ing is whether to file legal suits in Eu­ro­pean and North Amer­i­can courts against or­ga­ni­za­tions that are pro­po­nents of the boy­cott di­vest­ment and sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment. Min­is­ters will also con­sider whether to take legal ac­tion against fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions that boy­cott set­tle­ments, or boy­cott Is­raeli com­pa­nies that are some­how op­er­at­ing in or con­nected to the set­tle­ments.

An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is whether to ac­ti­vate the pro-Is­rael lobby in the U.S., specif­i­cally AIPAC, in order to pro­mote leg­is­la­tion in Con­gress against the eco­nomic boy­cott of Is­rael, akin to the leg­is­la­tion that was passed in the 1970′s against the Arab boy­cott.

One of the is­sues that will be raised dur­ing the dis­cus­sion is that there is a lack of knowl­edge and in­ef­fi­cient track­ing by Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence of pro-BDS or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The Strate­gic Af­fairs Min­istry has pro­vided the Is­rael De­fense Forces’ in­tel­li­gence de­part­ment a bud­get of sev­eral mil­lion shekels for the pur­pose of bol­ster­ing mil­i­tary sur­veil­lance of such or­ga­ni­za­tions. How­ever, the need for the prime min­is­ter to in­struct the Shin Bet Se­cu­rity Ser­vice and the Mossad on the ef­forts is likely to come up.