On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chose to threaten Israel from a podium in, of all places, Munich.
“Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It is not sustainable. It is illusionary.
You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it—there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”
The reaction from Israeli leaders came quick and hot. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said, “We will not hold talks with a gun to our head. Friends don’t put ultimatums on the security of the state of Israel.”
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel said:
“The only things that are an illusion are the slogans of peace that Kerry is trying to sell to the state of Israel: slogans that cover the existential danger to Israel. The Palestinians can’t believe how lucky they are to receive such a ‘fair’ mediator.”
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said:
“We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side, against the anti-Semitic boycott attempts against Israel, and not to be the voice of the boycotts. We’ve known in the past and know today how to stay strong.”
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was more diplomatic in referring to Kerry’s threats of boycotts against the State of Israel.
“Firstly, they only serve to make the Palestinians become more entrenched in their stance of refusal. Secondly, no pressure will make me abandon the State of Israel’s vital interests, of which security of the civilian population is foremost.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki hastened to brush off all this criticism by telling Israeli leaders that Kerry wasn’t threatening Israel or even saying anything new, that he had only reiterated “previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides” should the current talks falter.
“Secretary Kerry has always expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.”
So according to the State Department, not only did Kerry not threaten Israel with boycott, but Israel is the bad actor in the story. It is Israel who was so brazen as to distort: to inaccurately depict Kerry’s words. Israel got its hand smacked for what Kerry actually said (and not what the State Department pretended he said) in Munich.
In addition to what Kerry actually said, it’s important to note an early January AFP report which suggests that John Kerry is actually (there’s that word again) pulling the strings of the EU boycott against Israel. Well, he’s not fooling anyone in Israel. As Netanyahu famously paraphrased, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”
The thing is, in manipulating the boycott through its minion John Kerry; the Obama Administration is breaking all kinds of laws. In fact, there’s an entire U.S. government bureau charged with fighting the boycott against Israel. It’s called the “Office of Antiboycott Compliance” (OAC). Here’s a quote from the website:
“The Bureau is charged with administering and enforcing the Antiboycott Laws under the Export Administration Act. Those laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain other countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau.”
Okay, so we’re talking about commerce, right? So Kerry’s not buying and selling. He’s just (according to those reports) encouraging the boycott. Is THAT against the law?
Let’s take a look:
“The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to the activities of U.S. persons in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States. The term “U.S. person” includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns. U.S. persons also include U.S. citizens abroad (except when they reside abroad and are employed by non-U.S. persons) and the controlled in fact affiliates of domestic concerns. The test for ‘controlled in fact’ is the ability to establish the general policies or to control the day to day operations of the foreign affiliate.”
This means that if Kerry is indeed, manipulating or influencing the EU boycott against Israel, in any way, shape or form, it’s prosecutable, because Kerry is a crucial part of the machine that determines general U.S. policy in regard to the EU boycott.
So what are OAC’s objectives exactly?
“The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.”
In other words, supporting the EU boycott in any manner flies in the face of well-established U.S. policy going back to the mid-1970’s. From the website:
“During the mid-1970’s the United States adopted two laws that seek to counteract the participation of U.S. citizens in other nation’s economic boycotts or embargoes. These ‘antiboycott’ laws are the 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act (EAA) and the Ribicoff Amendment to the 1976 Tax Reform Act (TRA).”
Here’s another interesting tidbit from the website, which would suggest that Kerry, as a U.S. taxpayer, must report his behind the scenes talks with the EU regarding even a whiff of anything that smacks of an anti-Israel boycott.
“The TRA requires taxpayers to report ‘operations’ in, with, or related to a boycotting country or its nationals and requests received to participate in or cooperate with an international boycott. The Treasury Department publishes a quarterly list of “boycotting countries.”
In addition for pointing a finger at Israel should the peace talks predictably fail, and threatening punitive financial measures against the Jewish State, Kerry appears to be breaking the antiboycott laws of the very country he represents. All this serves to make me wonder at the brazenness of the Obama Administration in flouting U.S. federal law while Americans simply sit back and watch the show in silence—until they get bored and change the channel. Downton Abbey anyone?