Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Thursday that Israel is prepared to engage in direct talks with the Palestinians "immediately, without preconditions,” reaffirming Israel’s commitment to the Oslo process. Netanyahu, disavowing France’s initiative to impose a peace settlement, stated: "Israel adheres to the position that the best way to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations." On May 30, the French are hosting a summit to discuss the peace process with 20 countries. The French have not invited the Israelis or the Palestinians, but countries such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have been invited. At the meeting, participants will discuss “parameters” for an international peace conference expected to take place later in the year. The Palestinians support this initiative. In response to the French initiative, the prime minister added, "All other political initiatives distance the Palestinians from the negotiating table.”
Under the terms of the Oslo II Accords signed in 1995, the Israelis and Palestinians agreed that “[n]either side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” The Palestinians seek to circumvent the Oslo process to pursue a unilateral bid for statehood through recognition at the United Nations. Since 2005, the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, have been engaged in a campaign they call the “Palestine 194” campaign. It is their attempt to gain recognition as the 194th member of the United Nations without a negotiated peace settlement. Moreover, after applying for membership, in October 2011, the Palestinians were accepted as full members in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In November 2012, the Palestinians pressed for a vote in the UN General Assembly to have their status raised to “non-member observer State status.” The Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court in April 2015, and Abbas signed more than 12 international conventions in April 2014. In December, the Palestinians joined the UN Climate Forum.
Members of Congress from both parties have expressed opposition to international initiatives that seek to impose a solution to the conflict. Ranking Member Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) told two State Department officials: “As we continue to work toward the goal of two states for two peoples, I would hope the administration will work to prevent any attempts to circumvent the direct negotiation process, which is the only way that peace can be achieved.” Former Secretary of State and current Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton told the audience at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in March that she “would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the U.N. Security Council.”
The bill, which passed by a 38-9 margin, would prohibit the Iowa Board of Regents, the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System and some other state pension funds from agreeing to contracts worth more than $1,000 with businesses that boycott Israel. The state House passed the bill in February.
The senate also approved a resolution in a voice vote “in support of the Jewish State of Israel,” and called for a negotiated peace.
A bipartisan congressional bill was introduced in Washington DC in February that is designed to support states that pass anti-BDS legislation. One activist who spoke to Tablet about the measure predicted that the number of states that passed anti-BDS legislation would reach double digits by the summer of 2016.
The Iowa bill is the latest blow to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which seeks to stigmatize and isolate Israel socially, economically, and politically until it accedes to a number of unilateral Palestinian demands. Critics of the campaign have accused it of being discriminatory in tone and intention, and pointed out that many of its leaders have publicly affirmed that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, an opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”
Following passage of the Illinois bill last year, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich said that the bill reflected a belief that “that in the eyes of America, the BDS is not like the civil rights protests, as its supporters love to claim, but rather more like the anti-Jewish boycotts so common in Europe in the 20th century, and in the Arab world until this day.” (via TheTower.org)
Two guys walk into a New York City bar in 2003 and meet a couple of Brazilian women. “What do you miss most from home?” the men ask. “Agua de coco,” the women answer. Coconut water. In 2004, the two men found Vita Coco, which takes off like wildfire as consumers everywhere seek alternatives to sugary soft drinks. Today, Vita Coco is the global market leader in coconut water, the clear nutritious liquid inside young green coconuts. The company has 10 manufacturing facilities in eight tropical countries, which altogether utilize two million coconuts daily. “In the US we have 45 to 50 percent of the market share. Coconut water sales in the US are $1.2 billion per year and $1.9 billion globally,” says Ira Liran, the Israeli-born member of the founding duo, who followed his love to Sao Paulo. Celebrity investors including Madonna, Demi Moore, Rihanna, Matthew McConaughey and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers love the drink and Vita Coco’s social initiatives in communities where the coconuts are sourced, ranging from scholarships for farmers’ children to sustainable farming programs. “I never dreamed it would be this successful. My original plan was to sustain my life in Brazil,” Liran tells ISRAEL21c during one of his frequent trips to visit family in Israel. “But we knew we had something special on our hands.” Vita Coco recently signed a distribution agreement in Israel, its 31st market. This is something of a homecoming for Liran. Though the business thrived, it almost went bankrupt before the first carton hit the shelves. “We went all in, bought tons of product, put it on a boat in two huge containers and sent it to the US,” Liran relates. Three days before the ship’s arrival, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for the product’s FDA registration number. Liran and Kirban didn’t have one. They learned it would take 16 to 18 weeks to process their application. “We panicked. We didn’t have enough money to discard, let alone store, the product. So we decided to divert it to the Bahamas and sold as much as we could there to recoup some of our losses. That could have been the end of us but we were able to regroup, wait for the FDA number and then restart.” He admits that he invested a fair amount of Israeli chutzpah (audacity) into the business. “You have to have a little chutzpah to go against the system,which says you need millions [of dollars] to give out free stuff. Instead, we went into stores and said ‘You have to support the little guy; you have to buy this. We’re not Coke and Pepsi. We have rents to pay.’ And chutzpah took us where we needed to go.” The Vita Coco partners have spurned buyout offers from some of their 250 coconut-water competitors. “Our two biggest competitors are Coke and Pepsi in the US, and we’re bigger than both of them combined,” says Liran. (via Israel21c)