Thursday, January 23, 2014

The boycotting starts here

The boycotting starts here

Ya'acov Berg

Israeli business leaders are on their way to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum. They will tell the others that "Israel's economy might be imperiled unless Israel signs a deal [with the Palestinians]."

But is that really the case? First, let's try to find out the origins of the boycott on Israel and where it is enforced. The answer may be difficult to fathom -- here at home.

I own the Psagot winery. The vines grow in the Binyamin region, in Judea and Samaria (some seven minutes from Jerusalem). The wines are internationally acclaimed, and each year the winery is awarded a different prize from some overseas body. More than 70 percent of the wine is for export. I occasionally go to Tel Aviv to let the owners of some of the finest restaurants taste the wine. Usually they say the quality is surprisingly good, but then they ask where the winery is situated. And then, as if in some ritual, I am escorted to the door. It is difficult to explain how insulting this is. My only sin is that I happen to make wine where my ancestors did the same thing. Had I been an Arab, would any restaurateur have dared to say, "Sorry, we don't hire Arabs"?

On an economic level, does the economy create peace or does peace help the economy? As far as I am concerned, the answer could not be clearer: Only the economy can create peace. When we -- Arabs, Palestinians, Jewish residents and Arab villagers -- all have flourishing businesses; when we have a free-market based and an industrialized economy; when we have a lot to gain and too much to lose, only then will there be real motivation to resolve our political, religious and cultural conflicts.

To boycott means to ruin and destroy, not to build. Economic pressure has achieved the opposite of its intended effect. It makes each side hunker down. It induces more hatred and creates an even greater desire to inflict harm and cause pain. By the way, the boycott hurts the Palestinian workers the most. If the business leaders in Davos had any decency, they would have called on the world to invest in Israel and in Judea and Samaria in particular, because a good economy will help everyone compromise and strive toward more coexistence with an agreed-upon solution.

When business leaders or cabinet ministers say that "unless we sign a deal ...," isn't that the biggest boost the boycotters could ask for? That the biggest (ostensible) supporters of democracy and the most ardent pursuers of peace (supposedly) are also those who want to boycott, to inflict harm and to induce hatred is just mind-boggling.

Foreign investors want security, not peace. They want to know the future is safe, because that would allow their business and their enterprise to makes plans ahead of time, to thrive and to move forward. Will any investor invest in Israel's south just because there is a border with the Gaza Strip, which is a supposedly independent and separate entity? If a deal is struck, will investors have faith in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and have confidence in his ability to hold on to power and fend off Hamas' efforts to overthrow his regime and fire Qassam rockets on Tel Aviv? History shows that the Israeli economy fares best when the level of security shoots up; this has nothing to do with any particular deal with the Palestinians.

Here is some practical advice: If we close ranks, if we forgo boycotting and mutual ostracism, if we tell the nations of the world that there is no more room for punishing Jews whose only sin is that they live in their ancestral homeland, if we tell the world that we welcome internal debate but we will still drink together, perhaps then will we have shown that we are ready for true peace with our neighbors, peace that seeks coexistence, not a severance of ties, and without walls or boycotts.

Ya'acov Berg is the CEO of the Psagot Winery and a resident of Judea and Samaria.