There are two ways people tend to look at the problems Israel faces. Either the big threat comes from without in the form of Islamic terrorism and antisemitism or the big threat comes from within in the form of Jewish extremism, marginalisation of democratic and judicial processes and settlement building preventing Israel from retaining a Jewish majority.
Those with the different priorities tend to sit on opposite sides of a chasm of understanding which cannot be crossed.
When it comes to Israel’s foreign policy (if one accepts Israel has one) it seems Israel’s top diplomat, Tzipy Hotovely feels it’s more important for the country to go down fighting than gain a foreign policy success. In her latest interview with the Times of Israel she announces that she is off to do battle with the European Union and appears to accept defeat before having started:
And yet, Hotovely, while staunchly advocating the annexation of the West Bank to Israel, acknowledged that her efforts to prevent the labeling of settlement goods might not bear fruit. ‘It’s a diplomatic journey the outcome of which I cannot promise,’ she said. ‘What I can promise is that Israel’s position will be very forceful and tough on this matter.’
If anyone was looking for the politician will to fight to the last Israeli they need look no further. It is of course better to be forceful and tough and lose than to be accommodating and diplomatic and negotiate some sort of compromise agreement. Instead we get this kind of fighting talk regarding the EU’s decision to enforce labelling of settlement products on goods imported from the West Bank er sorry Judea and Samaria (because what you call it apparently makes a difference);
We see it as a boycott of Israel for all intents and purposes. We view it as a slippery slope. It’s simply a sweeping disqualification of Israel.”
Of course to all intents and purposes it is only a boycott if you are so certain that Israel’s settlement policies play so badly with Europeans that the moment a label is put on WB products telling people where they’re from no one will buy them. What is really the case is that to all intents and purposes the EU placing labels on settlement goods is not boycotting them. It is selling them. With a label on.
Israel probably could have found a way to avoid this situation entirely if it had only made some diplomatic noises (not even actions) but it plays better at home to look and sound belligerent so here we are.
The European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner. Israel however is 27th on the list of trading partners with the European Union with a grand total of a 0.9% stake in the EU economy. Threatening member states with the consequences of enforcing the labelling of settlement goods is more likely to hurt Israelis who do business with the EU than force the EU to reverse its position. The diplomatic equivalent of a fly attacking an elephant.
But it plays well at home to be belligerent rather than responsible.
The deputy minister freely concedes that the labelling of settlement goods in the EU is utterly irrelevant economically. The Times of Israel pointed out Israeli exports from the settlements to the EU is less than 1% of the total of Israeli exports. Nevertheless Hotovely is on a crusade to alienate friends and trading partners (not to mention endangering Israeli business interests) in an ideological quest to fight for the right of Israelis to sell vegetables grown in the West Bank to the EU without having labels on them.
Of course no one in Europe cares. Very few people could find Israel, let alone the West Bank excuse me, Judea and Samaria (because it matters what you call it) on a map and few of them will even check the label to see where the goods they’re purchasing are from.
But of course when you’re as ideologically committed to the occupation of the West Bank as Hotovely that doesn’t matter. It’s much more important to harangue European politicians in Berlin, Paris and Madrid than it is to promote trade links, increase Israeli exports to Europe and vice versa. It’s embarrassing. Of course it doesn’t take long to get to the point that this has nothing about labels on West Bank goods and everything to do with attempting to force Palestinians to remain inside an Israel they hate and want to destroy and send Israelis to live alongside Palestinians who want to kill them. As Hotovely admitted when she confused Israel’s security concerns with ownership of the West Bank saying;
The world needs to internalize that the West Bank is to remain under Israeli “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said. “It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it, certainly not for the Islamic State or al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations that would sure to gain control over the territory.”
Yes Israel’s top diplomat did just say that were Israel to leave the West Bank al Qaeda would take over. This is the stuff that will have EU diplomats reaching for the tissues when chatting to her. They will need to have something to wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes. The rest of us meanwhile will watch the spectacle of her plane crash negotiating with tissues in our hands to wipe away the tears of frustration.