The finance committees of the U.S. House and Senate have approved amendments to a trade bill that equate boycotts of West Bank settlement products with boycotts of Israel, strengthening efforts by the Israeli right to silence opponents of West Bank settlements. Both committees approved the amendments unanimously. Each committee then approved its version of the trade bill on a split vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats divided for and against.
The nearly identical amendments
require U.S. trade negotiators to “discourage politically motivated
actions” by foreign countries and international organizations that aim
to “penalize or otherwise limit” commercial relations with Israel or
“persons doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by
Israel.” The Senate Finance Committee took its action on Wednesday
evening and the House Ways and Means Committee
A separate measure approved by the House panel as an amendment to the
customs bill goes a step further and takes action against some foreign
companies if they shun the settlements, as called for by 16 of the 28
member-states of the European Union.
A press release
issued Thursday evening by the main sponsor of the House measure, GOP
Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, said the amendments “aim to counter the
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel by
requiring U.S. trade negotiators to make rejection of BDS a principal
trade objective in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
negotiations with the European Union.”
on Thursday evening.
“This is nothing short of a historic win for the U.S.-Israel
relationship and a hammer blow to the BDS movement — a campaign solely
dedicated to the delegitimization and isolation of our ally Israel,”
Roskam was quoted as saying.
The House amendment was sponsored by Roskam and Democrat Juan Vargas
of California. The language was taken from a far more sweeping measure
that Roskam submitted to the House in February, the United States-Israel
Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act (H.R. 825). It was adopted Thursday night as part of the Ways and Means committee’s markup of a customs bill.
Unlike the amendments adopted this week, Roskam’s larger bill
wouldn’t merely “discourage” European boycotts of Israel and the
settlements. It also would amend existing law to require direct federal
action to prevent boycotts of Israel and the settlements.
Among other things, the Roskam bill would require the president to
report to Congress on foreign efforts to boycott Israel or “territories
under the control of Israel,” as well as on steps taken by the United
States to combat boycotts. It would also amend the New Deal-era
Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require that foreign entities issuing
stocks or bonds in the United States report any participation in
boycotts, as well as any effort by a foreign government to induce them