Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) argued on Monday that "brave diplomatic moves," an independent Supreme Court and a moral IDF are the more effective tools in the fight against the BDS movement.
Speaking at Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth's anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, Herzog leveled harsh criticism against the coalition in light of recent attacks against both the IDF and the High Court of Justice.
"An independent court that is not afraid of the government or of public opinion and defends human rights is a very fundamental tool in
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of his ministers slammed the High Court on Sunday after it rejected a proposed natural gas deal approved by the government over its "stability clause," which would prevent Israel's leadership of making any changes to the deal over the next 10 years.
"The attacks on the High Court yesterday by the prime minister and the ranks below him only serve to weaken one of the main institutions defending Israel's good name," Herzog told Yedioth Ahronoth's Yuval Karni at the conference.
"Not all of those who attack us are Israeli haters. There's a massive silent majority influenced by the winds that come from here and there. And when that silent majority hears that we have a Supreme Court, a vibrant democracy, freedom of expression and freedom to protest, and it sees the true story of our amazing country - that majority understands that the BDS movement is all nonsense. But in order to have that we must show that our democracy is strong, and has a strong and independent Supreme Court," he said.
Another fundamental tool in the fight against BDS is the IDF, the chief of staff, and the military's commanders, the Zionist Union leader asserted. "They are one of our greatest defenders, because when the IDF acts according to norms of the purity of arms and moralirty, and has a mechanism to investigate and examine what's happening inside it and is not afraid to investigate - it's one of the most important tools. I strongly condemn the attacks against the IDF chief and the military's commanders."
Those attacks came on the heels of an incident in Hebron last week in which an IDF soldier shot dead a terrorist that had already been neutralized and was lying on the ground. The incident, filmed by a B'Tselem volunteer, caused an outrage in Israel. Many politicians, including Netanyahu at first, condemned the attack and said it was not in line with the IDF's values, as did IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and IDF Spokesman Moti Almoz. But many politicians on the right, primarily Education Minister Naftali Bennett, came out in defense of the soldier and criticized condemnations against him.
Herzog's fellow Zionist Union leader, Tzipi Livni, echoed his statements, saying, "We strengthened the Israeli democracy and the Supreme Court. When we did things right, we created a wall - on the one side were us, along with the rest of the world, while on the other side was the BDS movement, isolated. What's happening now is the exact opposite: The BDS movement is successful in isolating Israel despite the fact it still does not accept Israel's right to exist."
In order to once again turn the tide, Livni said, "we need to change our policies. Stop the attacks on the Supreme Court, support the IDF as a moral and strong army."
She criticized the government for being intransigent because "everyone is against us anyway."
"It is ineffective to simply just sit here and complain about the fact we are hated," Livni said.
"There's a small group that hates us, and it is joined by those who disagree with our policies," she added, warning that this could turn into a social and cultural trend, which will only further exacerbate the problem.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid joined Herzog and Livni in criticizing the attacks against the IDF and the chief of staff.
"Politicians shouldn't be trying to gain political capital on the expense of our children and the values we raised them to adhere to," Lapid said.
But unlike his two colleagues in the opposition who argued that Israel should focus on its policies rather than any specific attempt by BDS to de-legitimize Israel, Lapid has preferred to act on the smaller scale, asking for London Mayor Boris Johnson's help when anti-Israel ads were put up all over the British capital's Underground system, and speaking in front of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He recognized that this was "an exhausting war. That is why people don't like dealing with it - because it's an exhausting war with many battles no one ever hears about."
However, he argued, "It can't be that the startup nation can't do a better job than what (BDS) is doing on social media. It can't be that a state with resources can't deal with such battles."
Representing the coalition at the conference were Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Bennett rejected Tzipi Livni's arguments out of hand. "The most severe blows we suffered were in the Goldstone Report, in the Marmara incident and in Gaza. And we did exactly what the world asked. We expelled 8,000 Jews (during the Gaza disengagement - ed.) and gave the land up to Abbas, not to Hamas. It was there that we suffered the worst international blows and no one came to our defense when we were fighting to protect ourselves, we just got reports," he said.
He also responded to opposition criticism over the Hebron shooting incident, arguing that the discussion should not be about who is right - him or Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. "A soldier was in the field. The question is, are we automatically assuming he acted out of malice, or are we assuming - as a default before the investigation is complete - that he's there to protect us? There are thousands of soldiers who keep us safe. We need to back them. The political ranks must back the IDF."
He lamented that “so many people both in the government and in the opposition rushed to sentence the soldier right when it happened, before the incident was investigated.”
Finance Minister Kahlon claimed that the boycott has not caused real economic damage to the State of Israel. "At the Finance Ministry we announced that if any economic or industrial company in the State of Israel suffers damages because of the boycott movement, we as a state will stand by it both economically and legally - we'll provide it with any service it needs. We must give them backing," he said.
Kahlon also asserted that the Palestinians are the ones most affected by the BDS movement's actions "as the boycott harms the exports from the settlements, where most of the workers are Palestinians. We need security, the Palestinians need livelihood."
The finance minister also noted that NIS 128 million were allocated in the 2015-2016 budget to the fight against BDS.
Three other government ministers are scheduled to talk at the conference later Monday - Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Energy and Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz.