WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Thursday the introduction of the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act of 2016, legislation to further combat the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Over the past several years, a growing number of countries have sought to isolate and delegitimize Israel through BDS actions, including through international governmental organizations like the United Nations.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) targeted Israel with a commercial boycott, calling for the creation of a database—akin to a “blacklist”—of companies that operate in or have business relationships beyond Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines, including East Jerusalem. The UNHRC’s effort is the latest in a long history of singling out Israel for special condemnation, and threatens significant damage to both Israel and the United States, adding to the need for U.S. legislation. The U.S. State Department expressed opposition following the UNHRC resolution’s adoption in March.
The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act of 2016 would formally state Congress’s opposition to the UNHRC resolution. To prevent the implementation of similar “blacklists” in the future, it would amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to prohibit boycotts or requests for boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations against Israel. The legislation would also ensure that the Export Import Bank considers BDS issues when evaluating potential credit applications.
“The United States should bring its foreign policy and its economic institutions, its relationships, and its leverage to bear to combat boycott, divestment, and sanctions actions against Israel,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We should not stand idle when foreign countries or international governmental organizations use BDS tactics to isolate one of our key allies. We cannot allow these attempts to bypass direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to go unchecked.”
“Opponents of Israel around the world and in international organizations have increasingly promoted efforts to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel as a way to delegitimize and isolate Israel, while bypassing the direct negotiation process necessary to resolve political disagreements,” Senator Portman said. “The United States must support Israel by using the considerable economic and diplomatic tools at our disposal to stand up to this economic discrimination against our ally.”
Per the text of the legislation, the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act of 2016 “is intended to address and counter only acts of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to alter the established policy of the United States concerning final status issues associated with the Arab-Israel conflict, including border delineation that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.”