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      Experts Reveal Empty Boycott Threats

      Business and diplomatic leaders tell Reuters international boycott mere pressure tool, investment actually growing despite tough talk.
      By Ari Yashar
      First Publish: 2/24/2014, 8:18 AM

      Anti-Israel boycott campaigners
      Anti-Israel boycott campaigners
      Reuters

      Despite the tense prospect of international boycotts and isolation against Israel should American-initiated peace talks fail, the Reuters news agency appraised the threats as more bark than bite, quoting business leaders saying the concerns have been blown out of proportion as a pressure tool against Israel.

      The fears of boycott were fanned by US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the month when he threatened Israel with boycotts if the talks were to fail, a threat made more serious by reports that Kerry is himself orchestrating the European boycotts.

      Nevertheless, Uriel Lynn, president of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce, told Reuters "all the talk about boycotts has not so far caused any damage to our economy." 

      Indeed, international business ties have been growing steadily: the Bank of Israel reports direct investment was $10.51 billion through the first nine months of 2013, up from $9.5 billion over the entire previous year. Another encouraging sign is that Israeli exports to Europe rose 6.3% in 2013.

      Lynn remarked "Israel has gone through much harsher boycotts in the past. For example, we did not have commercial relations with China for years, and for a time we could only buy crude oil from Mexico and Egypt. So we can definitely withstand boycotts."

      OurCrowd CEO Jonathan Medved told the news agency: "the boycott is being used like a bogeyman, a scary story you tell a child at night." OurCrowd specializes in raising venture capital for Israeli companies, and therefore has first-hand knowledge of the threats posed by a boycott.

      "The truth is that Israel is a world leader in water technology, next-generation agriculture, cyber security, healthcare innovation and start-ups. What sane person is going to walk away from that?" remarked Medved.

      Despite the obvious advantages to doing business with Israel, some international firms have already defied their interests by cutting ties with the Jewish state.

      Holland has been leading the discrimination. Last December Vitens, the largest Dutch drinking water company, announced it was breaking ties with its Israeli counterpart Mekorot due to the company's presence in Judea and Samaria. In January, Dutch pension asset manager PGGM divested from five Israeli banks because they finance "Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories." 

      Nevertheless, there have been many signs that such moves do not represent a larger trend. Germany's giant Deutsche Bank AG last week denied reports that it intends to boycott Israeli banks. Further, Dutch pension fund ABP declared this month that it wouldn't divest from Israeli banks.