U.S. Congress Passes Landmark Anti-BDS Law

Obama to sign off on bill making rejection of Israel boycott a key objective in trade talks with EU; WJC hails ‘major defeat for BDS’

“The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe… demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). “If you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel.”

5719898403_a1559ae8b2_b1-635x357The Times of Israel (June 25) — After weeks of legislative drama, a trade bill containing provisions opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel cleared its final legislative hurdle Wednesday afternoon. The anti-BDS language, passed as part of the controversial Trade Promotion Authority legislation, is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, who had pushed Congress to pass the trade bill as soon as possible.

Two amendments opposing BDS in Europe – one sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican Sen. Rob Portman and the other by Republican Representative Peter Roskam and Democratic Representative Juan Vargas – were included in a trade authorization package that was considered must-pass legislation for the administration.

The president needed Congress’s vote to authorize him to negotiate trade deals with so-called “fast-track authority,” but ten days ago House Democrats turned on the president and defeated a key portion of the trade deal package.

After quick legislative maneuvering last week, House Republicans passed the authorization part of the bill – the part that the president needed most urgently and that Republicans tend to support – and then passed the revised House version back to the Senate for approval. On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate gave the controversial legislation its final approval, sending trade authorization to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The anti-BDS provisions in the trade authorization were directed toward free trade talks between the US and the European Union. The provisions require US negotiators to make rejection of BDS a principal trade objective in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the European Union. These guidelines, sponsors hope, will discourage European governments from participating in BDS activities by leveraging the incentive of free trade with the US.

“Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, Congress sent legislation to the President’s desk to combat efforts to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel,” wrote Roskam in a statement released shortly after the Senate vote. “The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe, including French telecom company Orange’s decision last week to sever ties with Israel, demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response. The bipartisan TPA provisions I authored are simple: if you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel.”

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