US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro addressed the 2016 Herzliya Conference on Wednesday, noting the close social, economic, and political ties between the US and Israel.
“Israel is home to over 2,500 US firms,” Shapiro said, pointing out that there “are more Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ exchange than Indian, Japanese, and Korean listings combined.”
Looking to shore up President Barack Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides after more than seven years of diplomatic tensions with the Israeli government, Shapiro claimed the US President admired Israel for its many accomplishments.
“’Americans admire a people’, said President Nixon, “who can scratch a desert and produce a garden,’” said Shapiro. “That admiration was on full display during President Obama’s visit in 2013. ‘If people want to see the future of the world economy,’ he [Obama] said, ‘they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers.’”
Shapiro said the White House remained committed to fighting BDS, but claimed that the most powerful weapon against efforts to delegitimize and isolate Israel is Palestinian statehood.
“I always emphasize President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s staunch opposition,” said Shapiro.
“I have directed my Administration to strongly oppose boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel,” President Obama said in February. “As long as I am President, we will continue to do so.”
Yet in February, Obama promised to ignore part of a bipartisan anti-BDS law passed by congress, saying that while he would oppose BDS efforts directed at pre-1967 Israel, Israeli businesses over the Green Line would not be protected.
“Conflating Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories’” would, Obama argued, “interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy.”
The law, as passed by congress, bars the US government from any cooperation with groups participating in BDS-led boycotts directed against Israel or Israeli interests on either side of the Green Line.
It is in Israel’s best interests, Shapiro argued, to show progress in negotiations towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, the formation of which he claimed would weaken the BDS movement.
“It has always been the case that one of our most effective tools to defeat boycotts and delegitimization is the presentation of a political process, negotiations, or some political horizon that gives hope for a two states for two peoples resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“So it is certainly in Israel’s and the United States’ interest to find the way back to direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and until then, to take steps to keep the two state solution viable for the future and avoid steps, such as settlement expansion, that seem to move the parties further away from, rather than closer toward, a two-state solution.”
While Shapiro acknowledged that many BDS supporters are motivated by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred, “we must also reach those who support a two-state solution, but who might be tempted by the misguided arguments of the BDS movement.”