Israel mum on State Department clarification on settlement policy

Jerusalem refrains from responding to statement issued the day before clarifying that an anti-BDS clause tucked into a sweeping trade law signed by Obama in no way legitimizes settlement activities.

July 1, 2015 21:05
1 minute read.
Jordan Valley

Houses can be seen at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Jerusalem refrained on Wednesday from responding to a State Department statement issued the day before clarifying that an anti-BDS clause tucked into a trade law signed by US President Barack Obama in no way legitimizes settlement activities.

State Department spokesman John Kirby issued a statement on Tuesday saying that a provision in the Trade Promotion Authority legislation conflates Israel and Israel-controlled territory, and “runs counter to longstanding US policy towards the occupied territories, including with regard to settlement activity.

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“Every US administration since 1967 – Democrat and Republican alike – has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines,” he said. “This administration is no different. The US government has never defended nor supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.”

The legislation, which was passed by Congress and signed by Obama earlier this week, includes roughly 150 trade negotiating objectives that require the president to raise specific US priorities in trade negotiations with the EU.

One of those objectives is to push back against efforts within the EU to sponsor BDS moves against Israel.

The trade legislation defines the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as “actions by states, nonmember states of the United Nations, international organizations or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Illinois), one of the bill’s drafters, responded to the State Department’s clarifications by saying they “cast doubt on its true commitment to achieving a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians through direct negotiations, which has been, and remains, US policy.”

Instead, Roskam said, “by imposing territorial distinctions, the US is prejudging the outcome of the peace process.

Our language reflects the reality that those who seek to destroy the Jewish state through the BDS movement do not distinguish between Israel and its territories. These measures, which the Office of the US Trade Representative publicly supported before the [House] Ways and Means Committee in April, were unanimously adopted in the House and Senate. We expect the administration to fully comply with the provisions mandated by Congress and signed into law by President Obama himself just a few days ago.”

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