(JNS.org) The British government on Wednesday announced new guidelines against boycotts of Israel by local governments within the United Kingdom.
The guidelines set forth by the British government make clear “that procurement boycotts by public authorities are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government.”
“Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarizing debate, weakening integration and fueling anti-Semitism,” the British government said.
The guidelines also cite the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement, which requires all of the accord’s signing countries to be treated fairly. Israel is included among those nations.
“Any public body found to be in breach of the regulations could be subject to severe penalties,” stated the British directive.
In December 2014, the local government in Leicester voted to boycott goods produced by Jewish communities located beyond the 1967 lines, in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza.
U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, who was in Israel on Wednesday, said that “we need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts.”
“The new guidance on procurement combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested will help prevent damaging and counter-productive local foreign policies undermining our national security,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.K.’s move during a meeting with Hancock and a delegation of British officials in Jerusalem.
“I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis, and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.