One sign that BDS, the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, is working is the fact that several hard-core opponents of BDS have begun to put pressure on the Israeli government to declare a freeze on settlements outside the Israeli barrier inside the West Bank. They are talking about just a partial freeze on a 48-year project of colonization, but the pressure shows that even diehard supporters who ascribe BDS to anti-Semitism acknowledge that the Israeli occupation is aiding the international campaign to isolate the country.
The latest to support a settlement freeze is the center-right Israeli politician Yair Lapid. Lapid has described BDS as the devil-incarnate: he told a NY synagogue that BDS is being led by the same people who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. But he now tells Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel has to do something to (in Goldberg’s words) “mitigate BDS in some way:”
There is an unholy alliance between the Israeli left and the Israeli right about the settlers. Both of them want to say that every settlement is the same. There’s no difference, for example, between Gush Etzion [south of Jerusalem] or Itamar [in the northern West Bank]. Why? Because the left wants to give away everything, and the right doesn’t want to give away anything. I’m saying, “No, it’s not the same.” In the future, we will not be able to be in Itamar because it doesn’t make any sense, because of where it is. And yes, we’re going to keep the [major settlement] blocs.
Lapid said that if Israel convened a regional peace summit in Cairo, with Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis, Jordan, the UAE, and the Palestinian Authority, the photographs that would go out to the world would undermine the BDS movement.
Think of saying to them, “These ideas you’re promoting, do they promote justice, or do they promote division and further dispute?” So yes, it would be very helpful if there will be any proactive, real try at negotiation.
Last week at the 92nd Street Y, former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren also endorsed the idea of a settlement freeze, though he predicated it on Hillary Clinton become president:
If she wins, I would hope that we would adjust our policies accordingly. I have very strong feelings about the peace process….You can’t call it the two state solution now, but you have a two state situation, de facto, in the West Bank, and let’s work to make it better, and let’s limit where we build our settlements, the most controversial thing. Let’s limit it to the settlement blocs, those areas that we all know are going to be part of the Jewish state if we ever have a two state solution. Whenever, no matter– let’s limit it. I think we’d have to adopt that kind of party policy if she were to be elected– to get in a different place.
Though Oren also said that Israel has a “diplomatic responsibility” to counter BDS by making policy changes to ameliorate the conditions of Palestinians under occupation.
So if we move ahead in the way I’ve suggested on the two state situation, I think that will also help us on BDS.
The other speaker at the event, writer Jonathan Rosen, asked whether Oren thought that Israeli settlement policies are affecting BDS. Oren responded:
Sometimes– sometimes they make BDS’s work easier for them.
So BDS is effectively pressuring these diehard Zionists to try and alleviate the occupation. This is what BDS proponents have always said about their campaign: that it is the only means of pressuring Israel to change its behavior; governments have failed to do so. Though of course BDS advocates human rights that go far beyond what Lapid, Oren, Shavit, and Foxman are talking about when they speak of a settlement freeze.
To understand what these men mean when they speak of the settlement blocs, look at this map from B’Tselem. It shows the Israeli barrier crisscrossing through the West Bank mostly east of the old Green Line. In a number of cases, the barrier juts out into the West Bank to include Ma’ale Adumim near Jerusalem, Gush Etzion around Bethlehem, and Ariel near Nablus. And the shaded area in the Jordan Valley is something else entirely: military occupation that Israel says it will not end, to defend itself on the east.