Congress uses U.S. trade policy to undercut European pressure against Israeli settlements. A new U.S. bill legitimizes Israeli settlements and delegitimizes Palestinian non-violent resistance to the occupation.
The United States Congress is about to pass a law that erases the Green Line and delegitimizes one of the most effective non-violent tools Palestinians have for fighting the 48-year-old Israeli occupation.
The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act legally authorizes the White House to negotiate and sign trade deals. An amendment in that bill now defines Washington’s principal objectives in those negotiations to include the discouragement of boycott, divestment and sanctions moves against Israel, including non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services or commerce.
The bill defines such boycott, divestment and sanctions actions as any actions “that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”
The key term here is, “or in Israeli-controlled territories.” That term is specifically used in Israel to refer the Israeli presence in the West Bank, including the settlements. To put it simply, Congress is saying that as far as it is concerned, there is no difference between Tel Aviv and the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.
Another point of immense importance is the inclusion along with BDS, “politically motivated non-tariff barriers.” Because the amendment specifically applies to trade talks with Europe, that wording should be understood as a response to increased efforts by the EU to ensure that its trade agreements and financial relationships with Israel do not cross the Green Line. That means labeling settlement products, limiting financial cooperation and lending to companies that operate in the settlements and the withdrawal of agricultural inspection certificates for Israeli goods produced in the West Bank.
Now the executive branch of the United States will be mandated “to discourage” such measures, which have become an increasingly central tenet of European foreign and economic policy vis-a-vis Israel. The measures are treated seriously because as a bloc, the EU is Israel’s single largest trading partner.
For over a decade the United States has consistently described Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “obstacles to peace,” “unhelpful” and “illegitimate.” In decades past, Washington joined the international consensus that settlements are illegal under international law.
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