American emissary George Mitchell is trying to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to offer “confidence-building measures” to his Palestinian counterpart. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, offered a gesture of his own: a boycott of products from the settlements, including those parts of Jerusalem that he defines as settlements.
Fayyad, the darling of the “progressive” elements in Israeli society, a while ago announced another “confidence-builder”: an intention to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. That didn’t impede the organizers of the Herzliya Conference, perhaps the most prestigious meeting held in Israel to discuss political issues, from inviting him to address that convocation earlier this year.
If that’s how the Israelis react to my provocations, Fayyad presumably says to himself, why indeed should I not from time to time drop more such confidence-building bombs? After all, merely by deleting them from the agenda I’ll score points for making what would be considered genuine concessions.
The Netanyahu government is perilously weak in every field of endeavor. Due to American pressure, it does not respond to the provocations of Fayyad and other Palestinian figures and organizations. But this does not mean that a boycott of settlement products will hold water. Not only will it not hurt products manufactured in settlements, but it will actually enhance their sales.
Fayyad failed to take into account that every few years someone initiates such a boycott. In the past, this was done by extreme left-wing Israeli movements. The result was an increase in sales of these products. The Israelis who hover around Fayyad and claim to represent the real Israel are a tiny minority. Most Israelis will, as a national response, increase their purchases of these products, as will Jews and non-Jews outside of Israel. Even those who are not explicit supporters of the settlements don’t like boycotts. They still remember when any Israeli product was subject to Arab and Muslim boycott.
And most important of all: the boycott, if backed by the Arabs and their supporters, will first and foremost hurt Palestinians. A large part of the prosperity we see today on the Palestinian street emanates from the jobs many Palestinians find in Israeli industrial centers in the territories, and from the widespread commerce taking place between Jews and Arabs despite the hostility continually whipped up by those whose only objective is hatred, violence, and enmity between the peoples.
Beyond that, boycotts can cut both ways. Not a few Palestinian products find their way into Israel, including to the settlements. They can also be boycotted. Once again the losers will be the Palestinians, whose economic alternatives are significantly narrower than those of the Israelis in Judea and Samaria (most of whom, by the way, are white-collar workers). A return to the economic crisis that characterized the years of war against terror would mean social and political unrest. Hamas, which is hated by the PA leaders even more than the settlers, would exploit this to its advantage, thereby endangering the rule of Fayyad, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the other wise men who are initiating these provocations. And they say Fayyad is moderate.
Fayyad must also recognize that the dream of Judea and Samaria empty of Jews is false, racist, and a nightmare for Jews. Even those Israelis who do not support the settlements and are prepared for territorial compromise are nevertheless sickened by the thought that Judea and Samaria — the cradle of Jewish civilization, the heart of the land where the Jews emerged as an historic people, the place where their identity was forged, where the Jewish people created monotheism — could be the only place in the world where Jews can’t live, create, and build.
The boycott proves what most of the Israeli public, including those prepared for territorial compromise, has long felt: those who are really thwarting any possibility of peace are the Palestinians who, in their heart of hearts, hope that it is only a matter of time before Israel disappears as a political entity. The current boycott is simply another exercise in gaining time, and will be followed by more. And when they have run out of such ideas, there will be violent intifadas — an excuse for their eruption will surely be found.
The initiators of these exercises should understand this: Despite the weakness of our recent governments and despite the lack of resolve displayed at times by the Israeli public (witness its support for the present government’s surrender to American dictates), on fundamental issues — like the sovereign existence of the Jews in their historic homeland and the freedom of any Jew to live anywhere in the Land of Israel even if that places them beyond the state’s sovereignty — most Jews are united and even prepared to struggle. The goal of Judea and Samaria empty of Jews as a first step toward the disappearance of the State of Israel is simply a pipe dream.