Friday, 16 August 2013

Israel's finance minister frets over economic impact of growing boycott movement

Israel’s finance minister has denounced what he called growing anti-Israeli sentiment overseas and raised concerns over its impact on the country’s export-based economy even as its leaders sit down for peace talks with the Palestinians. In an interview with the Financial Times, Yair Lapid, the centrist former television presenter who was the big winner in January’s elections, said he was concerned anti-Israel lobby groups in Europe were gaining more legitimacy to “do their thing”, which would be “more and more painful” to Israel economically.

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The past decade had seen a growth in lobby groups talking of “the new apartheid” in Israel, raising the spectre of the country being economically isolated as South Africa was in the 1980s, Mr Lapid said. “We are not there yet,” he said of the country’s isolation, but added: “I’m not going to pretend that this doesn’t hurt us.”

Mr Lapid criticised as “horrible” last month’s publication of new EU guidelines restricting access to European funds for Israeli entities operating on occupied Palestinian lands.

The move by the EU, which also plans to adopt guidelines on labelling Jewish settlement-produced goods by year-end, had hurt prospects for reaching a peace deal by emboldening radical groups that oppose a two-state solution, he said. “What does it say to the Islamic Jihad and Hamas and all those people who really want to stop the negotiation?” he asked. “It allows them to go to [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen and tell him, ‘See, you don’t need to do anything; all you need to do is sit on the sidelines and wait until the Jewish state will suffocate from the international pressure. “There is a lot of plain old-fashioned anti-semitism out there disguised as peace-loving, pro-whatever, 1960s kind of slogans that is hurting us,” he said on Thursday. “You don’t want to have more things like this EU decision, and you don’t want to have markets closed down.” Mr Lapid’s remarks are the latest indication that Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation over the occupation is raising concern about possible economic consequences at the highest levels of Israel’s government. more


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