(Politico) – A day after President Barack Obama signed a key trade bill, his administration publicly stated its objection to a provision of the measure that critics say appears to legitimize Israeli settlements in Palestinian-claimed territories.
The amendment to the trade law instructs U.S. trade negotiators to make it a priority to discourage foreign partners, in particular in Europe, from signing on to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which aims to pressure Israel via economic means to change its dealings with the Palestinians. The amendment was supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Some of the amendment’s critics support the so-called “BDS” movement. But even those who don’t said they still found the provision troubling because it refers to commercial activity linked not just to Israel but also to “Israeli-controlled territories.” The latter phrase, detractors say, is a clear reference to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and putting the language into U.S. law suggests the American government agrees those lands — which Palestinians claim for a future state — should be under Israeli control.
In a statement Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby first noted that the U.S. opposes BDS campaigns against the state of Israel.