Knesset debates, will vote on 'Boycott Bill'

Legal advisor: Bill is borderline illegal; Steinitz says changes should be made to law but supports it in principle.

Knesset session 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Knesset session 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset's legal adviser Eyal Yinon presented his legal opinion on the "Boycott Bill" Monday, saying that the proposed law is borderline illegal. After reported delays, the full Knesset began debate on the bill Monday evening ahead of a second and third vote on the law.
"The broad definition of a boycott on the state of Israel is a violation of the core tenet of freedom of political expression and elements in the proposed bill are borderline illegal," Yinon said in a letter.
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"There is one component among others which violates constitutional law," he said, explaining that any individual is empowered to enforce the law by seeking damages, and it allows one to seek monetary compensation that is not dependent on the actual damages caused.
"This violation together along with the broad definition given of a 'boycott on the State of Israel' creates a [legal] cause of damages in compensation for calls to boycott, whose goal is to affect the political debate on the future of Judea and Shomron, a debate which has been at the heart of political debate in the State of Israel for over 40 years."
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the 'Boycott Bill' should be sent back to committee for changes but supported the bill in general terms.
Requesting changes to clause 4 of the proposed law, which puts much of the responsibility in the hands of the finance minister to decide whether a boycott has been called, Steinitz said that the Ministry "does not want to be the lone high judge."
The basic notion of the law, however, does not obstruct freedom of expression, the finance minister said.
MKs on all sides of the political spectrum prepared for Monday’s vote on the “Boycott Bill,” with opposition factions drafting counter-legislation and working to enlist coalition members to vote against the proposed law.
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) proposed on Sunday legislation requiring that all products manufactured in the West Bank be labeled as such.
The “Boycott Bill, sponsored by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), would allow citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, Israeli institutions or regions under Israeli control.
Should the measure pass in its second and third (final) readings on Monday, it would also prevent the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.
“Settlement products are part of the widespread occupation economy,” Gal- On said. “Requiring products to be labeled will allow Israeli consumers to fight against those who seek to defend the occupation, and won’t allow the differentiation between Israel and the occupied territory beyond the Green Line to be blurred.”
Gal-On pointed out that products exported to the European Union are labeled if they are manufactured in the West Bank. “Israeli citizens should know what European consumers know,” she said.
The current law requires packaging to include the manufacturer’s name and an address, but not the location of production.
“For me, blue and white stops at the Green Line,” Gal-On said. “I don’t buy products manufactured in the settlements.”
Shira Frager contributed to this report.