Thursday, February 25, 2016
White House rejects portions of new bill to help Israel
President Barack Obama has announced in a rare statement that he will not follow newly passed measures aimed at boosting the Israeli economy and strengthening ties between the United States and the Jewish state, according to a statement issued by the president.
Obama stated that while he would sign the new trade resolution, portions of which focus on combatting economic boycotts of Israel, he would not enforce certain pro-Israel provisions that order the United States to stop partnering with countries that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which aims to isolate Israel.
The president’s rejection of these provisions comes two weeks after the White House issued a separate statement expressing support for every provision of the trade bill except for those focusing on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The Obama administration has repeatedly opposed efforts to fight the BDS movement over the past several months, with several senior officials expressing support for European efforts to explicitly label Jewish-made products produced in disputed areas of Israel.
Obama claimed in the statement that his administration does not back the BDS movement. However, he will not uphold parts of the new trade legislation that seek to combat the BDS-backed labeling of Jewish goods, which the Israeli government has described as anti-Semitic.
“Certain provisions of this Act, by conflating Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories,’ are contrary to longstanding bipartisan United States policy, including with regard to the treatment of settlements,” Obama said in the statement.
“Moreover, consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my administration will interpret and implement the provisions in the Act … in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy,” Obama said, making clear he will not enforce any part of the law that he views as legitimizing Israeli settlements.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), who authored the pro-Israel language along with Rep. Juan Vargas (D., Calif.), criticized the administration for not upholding the will of Congress and the American people.
“This law—including the anti-BDS provisions I was proud to author—passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate,” Roskam said in a statement. “Incredibly, President Obama has already announced his intention to prioritize his misguided notions of legacy over the law of the land.”
“We did not provide a statutory menu from which President Obama can pick and choose provisions to enforce,” the lawmaker added. “The president has signed this bill into law—it is now his responsibility to fully and faithfully execute it in its entirety.”
Roskam expressed dismay that “fighting efforts to delegitimize Israel interferes with his diplomacy, but rest assured that I intend to use my authority as chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee.”
Congress has undertaken a series of efforts to boost the U.S.-Israel relationship following a contested debate over the Iran nuclear deal that strained relations between the two countries.
Senate lawmakers, led by Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), recently filed legislation that would help state and local governments divest taxpayer funds from companies that back the BDS movement.
The bill comes as more than 20 state governments pursue efforts to combat the BDS movement and divest from anyone who supports it.