Senate Democratic leaders defied President Obama’s objection to the anti-BDS language in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 he signed into law last week.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 256-158 and the Senate by a vote of 75-20, includes a clause that addresses politically motivated acts to limit or prohibit economic relations with Israel — targeting corporate entities or state-affiliated financial institutions from engaging in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
In an unprecedented signing statement released following the signing ceremony in the Oval Office, President Obama objected to the wording that conflates Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories,’ since they are “contrary to longstanding bipartisan United States policy, including with regard to the treatment of settlements.”
“Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions in the Act that purport to direct the Executive to seek to negotiate and enter into particular international agreements (section 414(a)(1)) or to take certain positions in international negotiations with respect to international agreements with foreign countries not qualifying for trade authorities procedures (sections 108(b), 414(a)(2), 415, and 909(c)) in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy,” the White House statement read.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released a statement in support of the anti-BDS language contained in the bill.
Taking politically-motivated commercial actions against Israel by the United States’ trading partners “run counter to longstanding U.S. policy opposing politically-motivated boycotts of, divestments from, or sanctions against Israel and it is incumbent upon the United States to use every diplomatic tool to stop our trading partners from imposing such misguided actions,” the Democratic Senators said in the joint statement.
According to Schumer and Reid, the Obama Administration “has mischaracterized the TPA and Customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements. This simply is not the case.”
The Senators urged President Obama to retract his signing statement and “implement these provisions as enacted and intended.”
Read the full statement below:
“In recent years, we have seen some of our trading partners engage in a number of politically-motivated, misguided commercial boycotts and sanctions against Israel. We also have witnessed increased pressure, including on U.S. entities, to divest from certain Israeli investments. In the past several months, some of our trading partners have dismissed new rules furthering the so-called BDS movement as mere consumer awareness. But the rise in the BDS movement correlates with growing anti-Semitism around the globe. Therefore, it is critical that we address this issue.
“We included language in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA) and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (Customs) that discourages our trading partners from taking politically-motivated commercial actions against Israel. Such actions run counter to longstanding U.S. policy opposing politically-motivated boycotts of, divestments from, or sanctions against Israel and it is incumbent upon the United States to use every diplomatic tool to stop our trading partners from imposing such misguided actions. Moreover, such policy has long been reflected in the U.S. – Israel Free Trade Agreement, which does not distinguish tariff treatment among products based on whether they were produced in Israeli territories.
“While the Obama Administration has reiterated its opposition to boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, it has mischaracterized the TPA and Customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements. This simply is not the case. These provisions are not about Israeli settlements. Rather, consistent with U.S. policy, they are about discouraging politically-motivated commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. We urge the Administration to implement these provisions as enacted and intended.”