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Major South American Trading Bloc Accepts Israel as Observer State

The Pacific Alliance is a bloc [1] of five Latin American member states – Costa Rica just joined the initial four members of Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico – designed to promote economic growth specifically by focusing [2] on trade liberalization. Geopolitically, it sits opposite another South American bloc – the “Common Market of the South” (Mercosur) group – which includes Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil, and which has political ambitions [3] that often align poorly with American interests.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced today [4] that the Jewish state has been accepted as an observer state of the Pacific Alliance. The move has benefits that go beyond the merely economic, and will see Israel strengthening its overall ties in the region:

The decision to accept Israel as an observer state was made last night at a Pacific Alliance summit in Cartagena, Colombia with the participation of the member state presidents. Israel thus joins the US and Canada – among others – as an observer state. As an observer state, Israel will be invited to take part in the staff work of the Pacific alliance and attend its conferences, which will facilitate the advancement of cooperation with its member states.

Israel’s burgeoning overseas trade ties – other recent news revealed that Netanyahu will soon take a whirlwind tour [5] of the Silicon Valley to promote investment in Israel – are not easy to reconcile with analysis heralding that efforts to economically isolate Israel are gaining momentum. Instead they’re in line with recent study [PDF] [6] compiled by the Henry Jackson Society and the Friends of Israel Initiative documenting consistently deepening security and trade ties between Israel and Europe.

The situation is much likely closer to Jeffrey Goldberg’s throwaway description, that “the boycott movement is having its moment” due to the recent dust-up between American actress, model, and singer Scarlett Johannson and Oxfam. Johannson now famously appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for the Israeli company Sodastream, which has its main factory in the West Bank. Oxfam has become increasingly famous [7] due to its links to groups seeking to economically boycott Israel, and publicly blasted [8] Sodastream.

Johanssonn made her reasoning [9] for dumping the group quite explicit:

I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day. As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive.

Additional public scrutiny of Oxfam has not been kind to the organization, with journalists uncovering [10] a possible conflict of interest behind its hostility toward Sodastream. Coca-Cola, a Sodastream competitor, is a major donor to Oxfam.

[Photo: CCTV / YouTube [11] ]