For SodaStream chief, frustration with Netanyahu’s ‘politics of hate’ bubbles over

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum photographed at the SodaStream factory near the Negev city of Rahat. (Dan Balilty/AP Images)
The head of SodaStream has issued a bitter critique of Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, accusing the prime minister of cynically and deliberately nurturing the conflict with the Palestinians “in all its evil manifestations.”

By David Horovitz | The Times of Israel

In an interview with The Times of Israel, the carbonated drinks firm’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum charged Netanyahu was personally involved in the bureaucratic process that saw all of SodaStream’s Palestinian employees gradually barred in recent months from working at the company’s factory in the Negev.

He charged that the government knowingly perpetuates a false narrative according to which SodaStream was forced under pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to close its West Bank factory and fire the 500 Palestinians who worked under conditions equal to those of the 700 Israeli Jews and Arabs there. This false narrative, he said, is utilized by the Netanyahu government as ostensible proof that when Israelis try to build a better environment with and for the Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership and the BDS movement make it impossible.

As the government well knows, however, said Birnbaum, SodaStream relocated from the Mishor Adumim industrial park in the West Bank to Lehavim in the Negev in 2014 because it needed considerably more space, in a move it had begun planning long before and one that had nothing to do with BDS. It sought to retain 350 of its 500 Palestinian workers at the new Lehavim plant, but was granted permits for only 120. Subsequently, new conditions were imposed and that number was reduced to 74. And since February, said Birnbaum, those last 74 have also been barred from Israel, their permits retroactively canceled. While the new factory employs 500 Bedouin from nearby Rahat, he said, it is no longer permitted to provide work for a single one of its former Palestinian employees, some of whom had worked for SodaStream for six years, and many of whom were wonderful ambassadors for Israel.

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