UK Communities Secretary Michael Gove will introduce a bill to Parliament on Monday that seeks to prevent local councils from enacting boycotts on Israeli goods.
The legislation, which was part of the Conservative Party's (Tory) 2019 manifesto, comes after a series of motions passed by local councils to back the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in relation to public procurement contracts or pension schemes.
Gove said that boycotts of Israeli goods would lead to an increase in antisemitic rhetoric and abuse, while additionally, the legislation is aimed at preventing councils from enacting their own foreign policy.
The bill will prevent public bodies from boycotting any foreign government or territory.
"It is simply wrong that public bodies have been wasting taxpayers’ time and money pursuing their own foreign policy agenda," Gove told The Telegraph, commenting on the bills' necessity. “The UK must have a consistent approach to foreign policy, set by UK Government," he continued.
Leicester City Council, Swansea City Council and Gwynedd Council had all passed bills in support of the BDS movement before the 2019 election.
Driving a wedge in Labour
There is also suspicion that the bill is designed to create a wedge in the Conservative Party's main rival - the UK Labour Party.
The issue of Israel has been a divisive pressure point for Labour in the last few years. The previous head of the party, Jeremy Corbyn, had been publicly supportive of targeted action against settlements in the West Bank, and his legacy within the party has created deep divisions between his supporters and his opponents.
The current head of the party, Kier Starmer, has been far more supportive of Israel than his predecessor and more decisive in his action against antisemitism in the party. Part of his campaign against antisemitism led to Corbyn's suspension in 2020, and the party refused to support him for the upcoming elections in 2024, preventing him from running as a party candidate.
The legislation will not affect sanctions imposed by the UK Government, such as those on Russia and Belarus, due to these being set by the national government rather than the local.
Recent negotiations between Israel and the UK concerning a free trade agreement may also play a factor.