On Thursday, May 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Paris to formally accept the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s invitation to Israel to join the ranks of the world’s leading economies.
But Israel’s accession to the OECD would not have happened if the Palestinian Authority had its way, and the PA’s attempt to block Israel’s economic achievement could theoretically backfire and endanger American military assistance to the would-be state of Palestine. What’s at stake? Approximately $100 million that was appropriated for 2010 to train and equip the PA’s elite presidential guard and security forces.
During the deliberations of the 31 OECD members earlier this year, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki lobbied all the foreign ministers of the OECD countries, calling for the vote to be delayed because, he charged, Israel infringed on Palestinians’ human rights and violated OECD values, Ha’aretz reported.
Israel complained that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also called many of the leaders of OECD countries to argue against Israel’s acceptance, the Ha’aretz report continued. “Fayyad’s efforts to thwart Israel’s participation in the organization,” said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor Party), “are extremely grave, and even more so during a time when Israel wants to begin proximity talks in order to reach an agreement and a reconciliation between the nations.”
The formal Palestinian leadership, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was also mobilized to block Israel’s joining the OECD, according to the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC). “In the run-up to the OECD decision,” a press release stated, “the BNC coordinated with the PLO, unions and other civil society actors in all thirty OECD member states as part of an intensive campaign to oppose Israel’s membership for its persistent and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians.”
On a basic level, the Palestinian attack on the Israel-OECD deal just doesn’t jive with the peace negotiations U.S. mediator George Mitchell is attempting to kickstart.
On another level, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas launched a campaign this month to boycott products made in Israeli settlements. Fines and even jail time await Palestinians who use the enemy products or work in neighboring Jewish communities. While Abbas claims that the boycott is not directed against Israel “with whom we have relations,” it is difficult to prevent a boycott of settlement goods from sliding into a boycott of all Israeli goods which may use components or ingredients made in Judea/Samaria a few miles away.
The boycott was also declared at a time when Israel is opening checkpoints and encouraging economic development in the West Bank. This week, Tony Blair’s Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem welcomed Israel’s decision to implement a package of measures to ease movement and access restrictions in the West Bank. OQR Head of Mission Robert Danin welcomed the development, saying, “Some of these steps are significant and should improve the economic and living conditions of the West Bank Palestinian population.” [Source: a press release not yet posted on the Quartet website.]
Some 25,000 Palestinians work in the Jewish communities in the territories, most in the settlement blocs, which will be kept under Israeli control if a peace agreement is reached. The boycott will not only cost them their jobs, but may also deep-six the prospect of joint economic projects in the future.
When President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington next month, he will certainly be quizzed by congressmen and senators about the OECD attack and the boycott, particularly since they challenge American law on the boycott. The 2009-2010 Omnibus Appropriations Act, State Department Appropriations section, states:
The Arab League boycott of Israel, and the secondary boycott of American firms that have commercial ties with Israel, is an impediment to peace in the region and to United States investment and trade in the Middle East and North Africa; all Arab League states should normalize relations with their neighbor Israel. … The President and the Secretary of State should continue to vigorously oppose the Arab League boycott of Israel and find concrete steps to demonstrate that opposition by, for example, taking into consideration the participation of any recipient country in the boycott when determining to sell weapons to said country.
Ultimately, the boycott of Israel is also damaging to the Palestinians, foreclosing the possibilities of cooperation with one of the world’s most dynamic economies.
Perhaps the tragic example of thousands of Israeli hothouses in Gaza should be remembered. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the bountiful hothouses were purchased by well-meaning, peace-making tycoons, including Bill Gates, Mort Zuckerman, James Wolfenson, and Leonard Stern. They planned to turn the $200 million enterprise over to the Palestinian Authority. Within days of Israel’s withdrawal, the hothouses were pillaged and destroyed. The tools for a better Palestinian future became targets for wanton destruction. Today, the Palestinians economic attack on Israel will have little impact on Israel’s burgeoning economy, but it will destroy the trust and cooperation needed for better future.
(H.R. 1105; Public Law 111-8)
DIVISION H–DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED
PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009
arab league boycott of israel
Sec. 7035. It is the sense of the Congress that–
(1) the Arab League boycott of Israel, and the
secondary boycott of American firms that have
commercial ties with Israel, is an impediment to peace
in the region and to United States investment and trade
in the Middle East and North Africa;
(2) the Arab League boycott, which was regrettably
reinstated in 1997, should be immediately and publicly
terminated, and the Central Office for the Boycott of
Israel immediately disbanded;
(3) all Arab League states should normalize
relations with their neighbor Israel;
(4) the President and the Secretary of State should
continue to vigorously oppose the Arab League boycott
of Israel and find concrete steps to demonstrate that
opposition by, for example, taking into consideration
the participation of any recipient country in the
boycott when determining to sell weapons to said
(5) the President should report to Congress
annually on specific steps being taken by the United
States to encourage Arab League states to normalize
their relations with Israel to bring about the
termination of the Arab League boycott of Israel,
including those to encourage allies and trading
partners of the United States to enact laws prohibiting
businesses from complying with the boycott and
penalizing businesses that do comply.