Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Sunday the “disgraceful” decision by the US Presbyterian Church to divest from three companies that provide supplies to Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank.
On Friday, a group of church elders and ministers voted 310-303 to pull financial investments from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions — a total of about $21 million, according to reports.
“It’s so disgraceful,” Netanyahu said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” news program. “Most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation.”
He said that while much of the Middle East was “riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions,” Israel is “the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians.”
Netanyahu advised the Presbyterians to “fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference.”
“I would give them two pieces of advice — one is make sure it’s an armor-plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christian.”
In a statement ahead of the vote, Presbyterian Church USA had said it was considering divestment in Caterpillar because the company provides bulldozers “used in the destruction of Palestinian homes” to make way for Israeli settlements.
Hewlett-Packard, it said, “provides electronic systems at checkpoints, logistics and communications systems to support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, and has business relationships with illegal settlements in the West Bank.”
And Motorola Solutions “provides military communications and surveillance systems in the illegal Israeli settlements.”
The 1.8 million-member church became the most prominent religious group in the US to endorse divestment in a sign of protest against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. It rejected a similar proposal two years ago.
The three companies said they regretted the Presbyterian move and reaffirmed their belief in human rights and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Presbyterians who advocated for divestment insisted their action was not part of a broader movement known as BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Their action came as Israeli troops continued a major operation in the West Bank, involving hundreds of arrests, to try to locate three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, who Israel says were abducted by Hamas.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.