Editorial, Jerusalem Post
Image from article, with caption: A Palestinian employee works at the SodaStream factory
Prospects for reaching a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians are next to nonexistent right now. This diagnosis is shared by a broad consensus spanning the political spectrum from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Right to opposition leader Isaac Herzog on the Left.
There is, however, also a broad consensus supporting cooperation with Palestinians in the fields of business, environmental issues and technology. ...
But if economic cooperation is supported by the present government – even by ministers opposed to a two-state solution – how are we to explain the government’s decision this week regarding SodaStream? The government refused to renew work permits for 74 Palestinians employed by the Israeli carbonated beverages company. SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum told The Jerusalem Post’s Economics Correspondent Niv Elis that he had approached the Prime Minister’s Office and the Economy, Finance, Public Security, Interior and Foreign ministries, as well as the police – to no avail. ...
The SodaStream model of providing equal, excellent working conditions to all of its employees – Jew, Arab, Palestinian, Beduin – has worked incredibly well and is a shining example of the word “coexistence” that is bandied about all too handily but not seen in action as frequently.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office was unable to recognize the importance of renewing the work permits.
“Our policy is to give priority to Israeli workers,” the official told the Post’s Herb Keinon. “What SodaStream is doing is talking about the coexistence they want. They had wonderful coexistence in Mishor Adumim. The reason it was destroyed is because of BDS. Why is he [Birnbaum] so passionate about letting BDS off the hook?” So, rather than seeing the benefit in both goodwill and hasbara (public diplomacy) in letting 74 hardworking, longtime Palestinian employees keep their jobs at SodaStream, the government prefers to look the other way and solely blame BDS for their plight.
SodaStream symbolized the cooperation that can be forged between Israelis and Palestinians. The government’s failure to allow that cooperation to continue seems to be vindictive, mean-spirited and shortsighted.