British Ambassador Matthew Gould (right) says he loves Israel, but fears it faces isolation.
The British ambassador in Tel Aviv has warned Israel it faces increasing isolation.
His comments come as reports emerge that Israeli banks are facing more pressure from European pension funds over their role in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“I love Israel,” the UK envoy Matthew Gould told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on 18 January.
“I am concerned that in five years Israel will wake up and find that it does not have enough friends.”
“Attitudes are shifting”
The ambassador added: “Attitudes are shifting, Israel is losing support. I look at the British parliament, look at the media – there is a change. It’s not a tsunami. It happens slowly and it happens over time but if you don’t spot it before it’s too late then it’s very hard to repair.”
Gould said that the recent controversy over new EU rules on supporting Israeli projects located in settlements had nearly resulted in Israel being excluded from the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific program.
“We were days away from putting in a big rift between British or European science and Israeli science,” Gould admitted.
Settlement business suffering
The wide-ranging Channel 2 report also showed that boycotts are having an impact on Israeli businesses located in its illegal colonies, for example the Barkan Industrial Zone in the occupied West Bank.
There, Ami Guy, owner of a business called “Shamir Salads,” admitted that boycotts were costing his company up to 500,000 Israeli shekels ($143,000) in lost sales per month.
Spreading beyond the “green line”
“Companies have lost contracts, got into trouble with their managements abroad, and managers even received letters threatening the cancellation of investments,” said attorney Daniel Reisner, who assists companies that profiteer in Israel’s illegal colonies.
But Reisner observed that the boycott is moving beyond the “green line” – the boundary between the West Bank, occupied in 1967, and the area of present-day Israel, that was established in 1948.
“We are already seeing the boycott of Israeli companies going up a notch, since these [newly affected] companies operate also [but not exclusively] beyond the green line,” Reisner told Channel 2. “I fear a snowball effect.”
As if to underscore this prediction, the Financial Times reports today that “ABP, the world’s third-largest pension fund, and two major European investors are reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks over concerns that the banks finance illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories.”
These moves follow the recent decision by Dutch pensions giant PGGM to divest from all Israeli banks.
Sasja Beslik, head of responsible investment for Nordea, one the three investors, predicted: “The pressure on asset owners to live up to their values when it comes to these issues will increase, I am certain about that.”
How to prolong apartheid
In the Channel 2 report, Israeli justice minister and war crimes suspect Tzipi Livni repeated her previous warnings that Israel faces isolation like apatheid South Africa.
“If there’s one thing the world does not understand, it’s the settlements,” she said.
“Negotiations are the only dam which is holding back this wave right now. In the case of a crisis – [the dams] will all be breached.”
“I spoke with Jews living today in South Africa,” Livni said. “They told me that back then they thought they had more time, and one did not need [good relations with] the entire world in every situation. But this is happening all at once. And I am shouting ‘wake up!’”
Livni may have been referring to the fact that while many South African Jews fought valiantly and gave their lives and freedom in the struggle against apartheid, the country’s pro-Israel communal body, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, sided with and publicly defended the apartheid regime.
Tzipi Livni clearly identifies with those who tried to prolong South African apartheid.
“When you google ‘Brazil’ you see beaches, beautiful young women, you see a really rosy reality,” Israel’s deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin lamented to Channel 2.
But “when you google ‘Israel’ you see conflict, soldiers, army, Palestinians.”
Elkin and other officials may hope that more propaganda campaigns will distort the image of Israel and obscure its reality as a brutal colonial and military occupier.
But the growing boycott – increasingly acknowledged in Israel itself – indicates that many more people around the world are seeing things as they are, not through the rosy lens Elkin would prefer.
With thanks to Ofer Neiman.