US Senate Approves Act Protecting Israeli Settlements

According to reports, the US Senate approved the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 on Wednesday, in a move which is clearly designed to protect the illegal Israeli settlements which are built across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Middle East Monitor reports: The act is intended to counter boycott and divestment initiatives, including the labelling of goods originating in the settlements. Such activities will now be “against US law and consequently illegal”, even though international law deems all settlements to be illegal. One of the senators who worked on the legislation is Ben Cardin of Maryland, a known supporter of Israel.

Media reports said that this law has caused widespread controversy because of attempts by certain senators to link America’s deal over Iran’s nuclear programme to the approval of several trade acts and agreements with various international interest groups, including Israel’s illegal settlements.

The first Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) initiative against the Israeli occupation of Palestine was launched in the US 11 years ago. It targeted illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Pressure has also been applied on US universities dealing with Israeli scientific institutions, demanding that Israel ends its aggression against Palestinians.

America’s main pro-Israel lobby organisation, AIPAC, has so far failed to connect the deal about Iran with several issues, but has succeeded in getting overwhelming support in the legislature to fight the BDS movement and the labelling of Israeli settlements as “illegal”. It has even persuaded US politicians to label such initiatives as a general boycott of Israel as “illegal”.

Nevertheless, anti-Israel boycott activities have accelerated recently. This has pushed US Secretary of State John Kerry, who opposes the boycott, to warn Israel about being isolated internationally due to increasing settlement growth.

Israel does take the boycott issue seriously, though. That was clear when the EU decided to label settlement-origin products last year. About 32 per cent of Israeli exports head to Europe. As a result of the EU initiative, experts predict Israeli losses to hit $8 billion in 2015. Hence the moves in the US to undermine the effectiveness of a boycott.