Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu convened senior ministers Sunday to discuss ways of fighting boycott and divestment initiatives proliferating in Europe and worldwide. Present at the meeting were Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The main proposal under discussion was prepared by Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, and other participants in the meeting included representatives of the Mossad, Shin Bet and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Israeli media has reported that “the discussion was held in secret“, with an imposed “media blackout” meaning that even the offices of participating ministers were “not even officially willing to confirm that the meeting took place”.
There is a difference of opinion between Steinitz and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), with the former pushing for a more proactive and confrontational approach. Steintz’s proposal means “invest[ing] substanial resources” in a public campaign, to the tune of “100 million shekels”. This would pay for “PR materials and aggressive legal and media campaigns against pro-boycott organizations”.
The MFA, meanwhile, is said to prefer “quieter, diplomatic channels”, judging that “a public campaign against [BDS activists] will only play into their hands, bolstering them.” According to The Jerusalem Post, Lieberman promised last week “that within some 45 days the public would see the plan Israel has in place to fight the boycotts.”
Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements…[and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.
Another topic was the question of “a lack of knowledge and inefficient tracking by Israeli intelligence of pro-BDS organizations”. Although Steinitz’s Strategic Affairs Ministry “has provided the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence department a budget of several million shekels for the purpose of bolstering military surveillance of such organizations”, reports Haaretz, “the need for the prime minister to instruct the Shin Bet Security Service and the Mossad on the efforts is likely to come up.”