Israel has no Foreign Minister, only a deputy, who happens to be one of the most extreme right-wingers in the Knesset. The last minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is facing trial for corruption, and the job is being kept open for him. Netanyahu obviously believes that no judge would dare to convict the fearful Lieberman, after the Attorney General has already shrunk back from indicting him on the most severe charges.
With no minister (officially, the Prime Minister is filling the vacuum) and a demoralized foreign service, there could be no prior warning.
Some people claim that the European decision was actually a pro-Israeli gesture, since it forestalls a general boycott of Israel, which is advocated by a growing number of personalities and NGOs around the world. A boycott of the settlements is the minimum.
In this respect too, the Europeans have also adopted a stance that my friends and I have advocated for years.
Contrary to several Israeli leftists, I believe that a general boycott of Israel is counter-productive. While our boycott is designed to isolate the settlers and drive a wedge between them and the bulk of the Israeli population, a general boycott (called BDS) would drive almost all Israelis into the arms of the settlers, under the venerable Jewish slogan "The whole world is against us!" It would strengthen the argument that the real aim is not to change Israeli policy, but to wipe out Israel altogether.
True, there are some good reasons for a general boycott, including the historic example of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa. But the Israeli situation is quite different.
THE TERM "boycott" was coined in 1888 in a situation not dissimilar from ours now. It was about foreign domination, land and settlers.
In Ireland, then under British occupation, there was a famine. Charles Boycott, the agent of an absentee English landlord, evicted local tenants who were unable to pay the rent. An Irish nationalist leader called on his countrymen not to attack Boycott physically, but to shun him. All his neighbors stopped all dealings with him, working for him or speaking with him. Boycott became the word for ostracizing.
The EU boycott of the settlements and their supporters will have a major economic impact. No one knows yet how much. But the moral effect is even more significant.
Even if massive Israeli-American pressure thwarts or at least postpones the European action, the moral blow is already devastating.
It tells us: The settlements are illegal. They are immoral. They inflict a huge injustice on the Palestinian people. They prevent peace. They endanger the very future of Israel.
Thank you, Europe!