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President Obama signs law targeting boycotts of Israel

US President Barack Obama on Monday signed legislation targeting anti-Israel boycotts worldwide.

The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which was passed through the Senate last Wednesday, includes roughly 150 trade objectives to raise specific US priorities in its negotiations. One of these objectives is to push back against efforts within the EU to sponsor the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

A group of congressmen and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) worked on the wording of the legislation.

The new US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act is specifically targeted “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organisations, or affiliated agencies of international organisations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalise or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli- controlled territories.”

In a statement, AIPAC commented that: “The Congress’s decision and the adoption of this language in the law would curb the actions of foreign governments to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel.”

Peter Roskam (Republican representative for Illinois), Juan Vargas (Democrat representative for California), and senators Ben Cardin (Democrat representative for Maryland) and Rob Portman (Republican representative for Ohio) all supported the law in Congress.

Paul Ryan (Republican representative for Wisconsin) said when introducing the provision as an amendment to TPA that: “the goal was to enshrine a principal negotiating objective that reinforces our opposition to official actions that boycott, penalise, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel.”

President Obama signed the law despite warnings from officials in his administration that it could harm commercial dealings with members of the European Union who prohibit trading with Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.

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