Israel has always been a country of strongly held opinions. Sometimes, those opinions even led to violence between opposing parties, and even to injuries and death. But the opposing parties always claimed to have the country’s best interests at heart. And they always had principles. Until five years ago.
In the aftermath of the expulsion of Gaza’s Jews, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left the Likud, which had rejected his program, and formed a new party called Kadima. What distinguished Kadima from previous Israeli political parties was what it was not: It was not a party with principles. As Haaretz’s Ari Shavit summed it up in a “letter” to the families that control Israel’s economy:
As a vehicle, Kadima has the political structure we always dreamed of, being a party with no members and no institutions and no ideology. The new ruling party will be a vastly valuable tool to achieve our goals. Since it has no obligations downward, only upward, it will enable us to seize full control over the Israeli government. Police, prosecution, treasury — it will all be in our hands.
As a result of Kadima’s success (it is the largest party in the Knesset although not part of the ruling coalition), it has now become acceptable in Israeli society to be unprincipled. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current wrangling over contracts to build the “Palestinian” city of Rawabi.
The Palestinians have insisted that any Israeli company bidding on a contract for Rawabi sign a contract that includes the following provisions, which essentially enforce “boycott, divest and sanction” (BDS) against Israelis located in Judea, Samaria, “east” Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
… ________ is prohibited from using and/or employing good and/or services and/or resources manufactured and/or originating from Israeli settlements towards achieving any of the objectives of this agreement, or in relation thereto. … It shall be the responsibility of _______ to verify and ensure that all goods and/or services and/or resources used and/or employed are not manufactured in and/or originating from Israeli settlements.
For the purposes of this AGREEMENT, the term “settlement” shall mean: any community, or body of people, or any commercial, industrial, military, quasi-military, and/or construction community and/or site and/or location, whether populated or not, partially and/or completely located on territories (or any part thereof) that were occupied by the State of Israel during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, provided that such territories were not under Israeli occupation and/or administration and/or actual and/or administrative and/or legal rule during the period between the dates on which the armistice agreements between the State of Israel and the respective Arab Countries were signed and June 4, 1967. Such territories shall include, but not be limited to, Occupied East Jerusalem, Occupied West Bank, Occupied Gaza Strip, Occupied Golan Heights, or any parts thereof, and any other territories and regions to which the aforementioned definition applies.
If anything, Bayti, the prime contractor for Rawabi, has gone one-up on the BDS movement. Whereas the BDS movement abroad is only able to target goods originating in the “territories,” Bayti is able to target services as well. For example, those provisions would prohibit companies involved in Rawabi from employing Israelis who live in “settlements.” Moreover, whereas most BDS actions target Judea and Samaria (which is how Israelis refer to the West Bank), Bayti is also targeting parts of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, areas where there is far more of an Israeli consensus as to the future.
When the story broke, the Knesset threatened to deny Israeli government contracts to any company that signed on to the Bayti contract. Later, some large companies were named as going along with the boycott, a charge that some of them denied. Now, according to my sources, some large companies are looking for smaller companies through whom they can enter into the Bayti contracts. Either the smaller companies would perform the work and pay the larger companies a percentage, or the larger companies would perform the work and sell it to the smaller companies, thereby enabling them to tell the government with a straight face that they did not enter into the Bayti contracts.
The implications of the Bayti contract ought to concern all Israelis. Consider, for example, if multinational employers who operate in Israel, like Intel and Cisco, suddenly found themselves pressured not to employ Israelis who live in the Territories, Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. That could affect the livelihoods of some 500,000 Jewish Israelis.
This sort of “arrangement” would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and probably even six years ago. But with the Knesset’s largest political party being one with no values, it’s not surprising that many people have decided that it’s each person for him or herself in Israel.