… and my latest column is also up @theprospect:
Outside of being celebrities and having Jewish mothers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Scarlett Johansson aren’t usually thought of having a lot in common. But they’ve been displaying another shared quality of late: the ability to act clueless about the suddenly snowballing economic boycott of Israeli settlements.
To be fair, it’s a lot more likely that Netanyahu is the one putting on an act. Johansson sincerely appeared to have little idea about what she was getting into when she agreed to be the straw-sipping poster girl of SodaStream, the Israeli maker of home fizzy-drink devices that produces wares in the industrial park of a West Bank settlement. “I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement… or stance,” she said in a press statement responding to criticism of her role advertising the firm. This sounds painfully naïve: Nothing having to do with Israeli settlements in occupied territory comes packaged without a political stance, but Johansson may have noticed this only after the ink was dry on the contract. Politics isn’t her profession.
It is Netanyahu’s trade, though. So when he responded to a comment by John Kerry as if the secretary of state had personally threatened Israel with economic sanctions, either Netanyahu knew better or he should have. Kerry, answering a question publicly at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, described potential consequences of a failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that he is brokering. “There are [sic] talk of boycotts and other things,” Kerry said. Netanyahu angrily responded in his weekly TV photo-op before the Sunday morning cabinet meeting. “Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust,” he declared. To make sure the boss’s intent was clear, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz—often a political doppelgänger for Netanyahu—threw in, “Kerry’s comments on a boycott … are insulting and intolerable.”
An analogy may be helpful here. Kerry’s remark was a descriptive warning, the equivalent of telling a friend, “I’m worried about you. If you don’t stop drinking, you’ll lose your job.” Netanyahu responded as if the friend had threatened to get him fired, and answered, “No one’s going to tell me what to do.” This isn’t a way to maintain friendships.
But as we know, people can get angriest at such warnings when they’re true. And in recent weeks, the boycott issue has gone from a peripheral threat to an immediate reality. …
The rest is here.