Forward Thinking

Israel's Finance Minister Worries About Boycotts

By Nathan Jeffay

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As the Scarlett Johansson-stoked controversy rages over SodaStream’s West Bank operation, Israel’s centrist Minister of Finance has been considering what effect international opposition to settlement production will have if peace talks fail. And his verdict is pessimistic.

In a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies, Minister Yair Lapid said that if Israeli or Palestinian negotiations break down or hit an impasse, resulting economic actions by Europe could have a major impact on Israel.

“Every resident of Israel will get hit straight in the pocket,” he said. “The cost of living will rise, the education, health, welfare and defense budgets will be cut, and many international markets will be closed to us.” He stressed that the European market, the main focus of his concern, is Israel’s primary trade market.

Lapid is concerned about a creeping boycott movement that catches the Israeli economy unaware, and pointed out that the apartheid regime in South Africa was caught off guard by the growth of the boycott movement against it. The situation, he said, is serious, and threats of boycott from Europe could have a short-term cost of almost 10,000 jobs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is launching a new ministerial forum on the threat of the boycott movement. Lapid’s unexpectedly forthright comments, which appear to present a peace deal as the only way to protect Israel economically, suggest that there will be fireworks in this forum between Lapid and ministers to his right, who have a very different perspective.


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