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December 18, 2013 10:34 am

Cooperation is the Path to Peace, Not BDS

avatar by Robert Singer

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Dead Sea with mountains reflecting off the water. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Two recent news stories point out the sheer irrationality of some European governments’ and companies’ moves to restrict business with Israeli companies or projects that operate in the West Bank.”Ž

On December 9, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority signed a tripartite agreement to swap and share water from the Red Sea and the Sea of Galilee, including the building of a desalination plant near Aqaba, Jordan, to turn salty Red Sea water to fresh water.”Ž

This news of little-seen agreement was a rare spot of sunshine in the Middle East and a model example of the Benelux-style cooperation the peace process envisions. The next day it was spoiled, however, by the announcement of Vitens, the Netherlands’ largest drinking-water supplier, that it was severing ties with Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, which is involved in the agreement.”Ž

Why should a Dutch company be more “Palestinian” than the Palestinians, and refuse to work with a company that is helping the Palestinian Authority obtain fresh water? The move is especially egregious because the Netherlands and Israel have enjoyed close ties for decades.”Ž

“What we see here is an urgent need for a little common sense,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmon told the Jerusalem Post. “It is more than strange that this Dutch company should boycott an Israel peer that works with the World Bank on a very important regional cooperation project, which includes the Jordanians and Palestinians. This only shows that by caving in to boycott pressures, one makes absurd decisions that result in a topsy-turvy situation.”

No kidding!

Yet the boycott campaign is spreading to many products originating beyond the Green Line: Jordan Valley dates, light manufactures of items such as seltzer machines, cosmetics with Dead Sea minerals – even though the companies that make these products employ many Palestinian workers at some of the best wages available in the West Bank.

Some in North America have jumped on this bandwagon, too. The 5,000-member American Studies Association just voted to bar cooperation with Israeli universities. Meanwhile the United Church of Canada, a Protestant denomination, recently decided to boycott “settlement-produced” goods.

All these misguided efforts only serve to set back the cause of peace, which will require more economic and technical cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs – not less. At the World Jewish Congress, we constantly use our extensive diplomatic contacts to advocate against the boycott and press for more economic ties. Our Global Campus Initiative is a world-wide campaign focused on training students to counter attempts to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israeli institutions and companies on campuses.

So three cheers for the Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian water agreement. If we work hard, this pact, not the counterproductive boycott, will be the wave of the future.

Robert Singer is the CEO if the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries on six continents to governments, parliaments, and international organizations.

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