In what could be a massive blow to efforts by some British groups to wage economic warfare against Israel, the British government will soon issue new guidance to prevent local councils from boycotting Israeli goods and services.
Matthew Hancock, the British government’s cabinet office minister, is scheduled to visit Israel this week and unveil details of the regulations.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, Hancock said such boycotts were divisive, potentially damaging to the UK’s relationship with Israel and risked fueling anti-Semitism. The report stated that the regulations will allow Britain to act against organizations that impose boycotts and make it easier to take them to court.
Hancock met with Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel in London last week and the issue of BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) was raised.
According to Gamliel’s office, Hancock said Britain is aware of the importance of fighting boycotts and that the issue is being dealt with “at the highest levels.”
Gamliel expressed her appreciation to Hancock for the government’s opposition to BDS initiatives and boycotts of Israel.
The new regulations follow a December 2014 decision by councilors in Leicester, one of Britain’s largest local authorities, condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and voting to boycott goods from the settlements.
Britain’s ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, told The Jerusalem Post
last week that Prime Minister David Cameron has said on many occasions – including during his speech to the Knesset in 2014 – that London was opposed to boycotts of any kind.
Quarrey also pointed out that Israel’s exports to the United Kingdom had doubled since London imposed a voluntary labeling scheme on products from the settlements in 2009, rendering hollow concern that labeling settlement products is the beginning of a boycott.
The two countries currently do some $7 billion in trade annually.