(July 9, 2019 / JNS) A proposed resolution in Ireland’s Belfast City Council to support the BDS movement against Israel, which had been scheduled for debate last week, has been withdrawn.
The development was in response to a letter from U.K. Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) to Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council, pointing out a string of reasons why such a resolution would not be legal, including that European Union and World Trade Organization “public procurement rules which require contracting authorities to base the award of public contracts on the most economically advantageous tender.”
UKLFI’s letter stated that, according to U.K. government guidance, “Public procurement should never be used as a tool to boycott tenders from suppliers based in other countries, except where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the U.K. Government.”
John Walsh, city solicitor for the Belfast City Council, wrote to UKLFI, confirming the withdrawal: “Whilst I do not accept the bulk of assertions made in your letter to the effect that the Council is not entitled to take a policy position, I do accept it is not entitled to adopt a position which would affect its ability to enter into contractual relations with Israeli nationals or commercial organizations of Israeli origin or otherwise associated with Israel.”
“We are glad to see a recognition by Belfast City Council that it would be illegal to boycott Israelis or Israeli businesses. We will remain vigilant to resist other attempts to discriminate against Israelis,” said UKLFI chief executive Jonathan Turner. “And if a motion is said to be ‘purely political’ with no practical effect, it will not comply with Councils’ Standing Orders, which very sensibly require motions to be relevant to some matter in which the Council has powers or duties or which directly affect the City and its citizens.”
U.K. Lawyers for Israel is an association of lawyers who seek to ensure the proper application of laws in matters relating to Israel.
Although UKLFI had not seen the text of the proposed resolution, it aimed to draw the attention of the Belfast council to its possible illegality, so that the appropriate officers could consider the position in advance of the meeting and advise councilors accordingly.