Israel Palestine BDS Boycott Port Ashdod Haifa
Containers are seen through the window of a crane operator's booth at the Israeli port of HaifaReuters

Concerns are growing within Israel over the evolution of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement after two prominent international port operators withdrew their names from the bid to construct private ports in Haifa and Ashdod.

Royal Boskalis Westminster, a Dutch port operator, and Italy's Condote de Agua withdrew before the bid submission deadline passed on Monday. Both had successfully proceeded past the bid's prequalification process.

According to news website Haaretz, a third bidder - Belgian maritime construction company Jan De Nul - only progressed with their bid proposal after they were granted permission to continue, under the guise of a company registered in Luxembourg called Ludreco, because of worries about the repercussions upon their business interests in the Middle East.

Haaretz stated the decision of the construction companies to withdraw signalled a "deterioration of Israel's international standing".

The BDS movement is led by the pro-Palestinian intelligentsia and activists who question the legitimacy of Israel as a state and campaign for a rejection of all Israeli goods.

Three more international companies, Spanish FCC and Cyes, and Germany's Möbius Bau, have all dropped out of the running for the port construction bid in the last few months too.

Arab Business Conflicts

The challenge for Israel to attract investment from international infrastructure giants is made tougher by so many holding contracts with Gulf States.

I think that it is important that the boycotters be exposed for what they are, they are classical anti-Semites in modern garb.
- Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

However, a number of the withdrawing companies hold no business contracts in the Arab world which suggests a political involvement from the companies' home nations.

Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained confident that Israeli technological know-how will outmanoeuvre the boycott.

"In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state, and by the way, only the Jewish state," he said in a speech to a US Jewish leader conference.

"I think that it is important that the boycotters be exposed for what they are, they are classical anti-Semites in modern garb."

He claimed that chiefs of international high-tech companies "all want the same three things: Israeli technology, Israeli technology and Israeli technology".

Peace Talk Panic

Finance Minister Yair Lapid was less sanguine about the ramifications of the boycott, stating that a collapse in the US-brokered peace talks would be "nothing less than devastating" to Israel.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has echoed Lapid's statement, claiming that if a peace deal is not reached, Israel could find itself at the centre of a larger boycott.

The BDS movement has led to companies, particularly in the European Union, changing their position in their Israeli investments.

Last month, PGGM, a Dutch pension fund, divested its investments in five Israeli banks because of their transactions with West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements that are deemed illegal under international law.

Similarly, Deutsche Bank has placed Israel's Bank Hapoalim as an ethically questionable institution to invest in, following on from Denmark's Danske Bank decision to do the same.

The BDS movement website accuses Israel of denying Palestinians "their fundamental rights of freedom, equality and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination and military occupation".