Usually in mainstream Israeli political discourse, BDS is the “love” that dare not speak its name. If the Knesset is seeking to pass a law to criminalize references to the Nakba, all the more so references to the terrible act of ‘delegitimization’ (what an ugly, ungainly word) that is BDS. It’s simply treif in polite political discourse. Which is why comments made this week in the Knesset by Labor MK Benyamin Ben Eliezer in retort to Bibi Netanyayhu’s triumphalizing about his recent hero’s welcome in Washington, DC, are all the more shocking.
Ben Elizezer, a former IDF commander and defense minister, wasn’t shy about telling this emperor he had no clothes:
“Listen, Bibi,” MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer growled, “I congratulate you on your hug from Congress, but it will not take us off the path to confrontation. Our situation in Europe is very bad. President Obama said everything we wanted him to say. Now you have to announce that Israel will vote for a Palestinian state in the UN this September … As a former industry and trade minister, I tell you: The markets are closing. We will suffer a devastating economic blow.”
I asked Ben-Eliezer how Netanyahu, who likes him, reacted to his tough talk. “He nodded his head,” Ben-Eliezer said.
While Bibi’s supporters may respond that this is much ado about nothing as Israel’s economy seems to be chugging along just fine, it is true that markets are closing just as Ben Elizer said. And they will continue to close. Israel’s multi-national conglomerates which depend on international markets will gradually see those markets become hostile to them as Israel continues to defy the international community regarding the Occupation. Eventually, Israel will find itself in a situation like that of South Africa.
What Israelis–who sometimes remind me of teenagers by tending to see themselves as invincible–don’t realize is that they, like Blanche DuBois, depend on the kindness of strangers. That is, Israeli companies market themselves to the world and the success of the export economy is what powers the engine of Israeli growth. What Israelis further don’t realize, is that while Israeli products are useful and even important in some fields, the world can survive without them. There is no Google or Facebook or even Microsoft among Israeli companies. The world economy will not come to an end if there is a massive international boycott of Israeli companies or products.
So Fuad is warning Israel that come September, when Palestine is recognized by the General Assembly, and Obama’s friendly veto in the Security Council is for naught, and Palestine begins to clamor for sanctions against Israel because it retains the territory of a fellow UN member, the body will eventually have to act. It may not happen immediately. It may even take months or a year. But eventually, sanctions will take hold as a viable political concept regardless of how Israel acts to defend itself or repeal the assault.
The former Israeli trade minister is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. He’s warning Bibi & Co. what’s ahead as they maintain the same posture of rejectionism and intransigence which have stood them in such good stead till now. It won’t be so easy down the road. There will be a price to pay just as South African paid a price. Unfortunately, I don’t see an Israeli deKlerk waiting in the wings to rescue Israel from pariah status and being blackballed among the nations.
If we wait another three years, and Meir Dagan continues speaking truth to power, then perhaps he has the pragmatism. But three years is a long time in the Middle East and in Israeli politics, an eternity.