By Mick Krever, CNN
Proponents of a boycott on Israeli goods are making a “mistake” and sending a “problematic” message to Palestinian negotiators, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“If they genuinely want to advance peace, what they're really doing is they're sending a double message, which is very problematic,” Taub said. “They're sending a message to the Palestinians … that you don't need to be sitting at the negotiating table.”
The “suggestion that they can go off to other places to try and get political gains, I think, would be very, very damaging,” he said.
The campaign to divest from Israel and boycott its goods – not unlike the campaign to pull out of Apartheid South Africa more than two decades ago – has been gaining increasingly mainstream traction.
The ambassador denied that divestment was going “mainstream,” citing tech giants like Google and Microsoft “straining at the leash” to work in Israel.
Major European pension funds have begun to announce that they will no longer invest in Israel – the Dutch pension fund PGGM being the latest to make headlines.
Just last week, actor Scarlett Johansson severed her relationship with the charity Oxfam over her advertising deal with the Israeli company SodaStream, which has factories in the West Bank.
“We are concerned about it,” he said, but emphasized that divestment is not the reason Israel is seeking peace with the Palestinians.
“The reason that we want peace is because we want peace, because we don't want to be at war,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has launched an aggressive campaign to get Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace accord; he has been on a near-constant tour of the Middle East over the past year.
Ambassador Taub said that Kerry had the “absolutely unequivocal” support of the Israeli leadership.
Last month, however, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon came under fire – and was forced to apologize – for remarks he made about Kerry.
"Secretary of State John Kerry – who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism – can't teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” Ya’alon was reported to have said.
When presented these comments by Amanpour, Taub said that it was important for Israel, and everyone else, to be “focused on the goal.”
In the past, he said, “we haven't let, you know, maybe unfortunate wording or the passions of people divert us. And I think it would be a terrible shame if we were to do that at the moment.”
The Israeli government, he said, is doing “remarkable things” to advance peace.
The fact that so little has been said publicly by negotiators, he said, was cause for optimism that “things are actually happening.”
Amanpour asked the ambassador whether he believed progress would be made this year.
“We very much hope so,” he said. “Israel is putting itself on the line, showing flexibility on the most crucial positions. And nobody wants peace more than we do.”