Senior Democrats criticize Obama’s exclusion of settlements from fighting BDS

President Barack Obama. Credit: Pete Souza/White House.

( Six senior Democratic senators criticized President Barack Obama for failing to implement two provisions in trade laws—the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and customs enforcement—that penalize U.S. trade partners who boycott Israel. 

“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,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.), along with other Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), said in a statement.

The senators noted that “such actions run counter to longstanding U.S. policy” and that it is “incumbent upon the United States to use every diplomatic tool to stop our trading partners from imposing such misguided actions.”

On Feb. 24, when Obama signed into law the TPA and customs enforcement guidelines, he said his administration opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. But the president simultaneously emphasized that his administration will not fight BDS movement efforts to end the Israeli presence beyond the 1967 lines.

“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.

The Democratic senators, however, argued that the two laws are in fact aligned with U.S. policy on Israel.

“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,” the senators said.

“This simply is not the case. These provisions are not about Israeli settlements,” they added.

Posted on February 26, 2016 .