State Department Failed to Mobilize Against Irish Effort to Boycott Israel

U.S. diplomats failed to mobilize against effort, stoking frustration on Hill, with pro-Israel insiders

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January 30, 2019

The State Department is facing accusations that it failed to mobilize to stop the Irish government from pushing through with a major new effort to boycott and isolate Israel, according to sources familiar with the matter who told the Washington Free Beacon this lack of action has created friction with some on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. pro-Israel community.

The Irish government is once again moving forward with legislation that would boycott Israel by making it a crime for any citizen to purchase Jewish-made goods that originate in contested areas of the Jewish state, making Ireland one of the most vocal and persistent boycotter of Israel.

When the Irish government moved to pass a similar bill last year—cementing the country's place as one of the foremost global supports of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement—diplomats in the Trump administration quickly rushed to quash the effort and inform Irish political leaders that any Israel boycott would subject it to harsh penalties.

This time around, however, the State Department did little if anything as the Irish government rammed through the new BDS effort, multiple sources told the Free Beacon. The administration's hands-off approach to the latest Irish effort to isolate Israel has stoked a level of concern and frustration on Capitol Hill and within the U.S. pro-Israel community.

In both instances, the State Department is said to have been alerted to the Irish BDS effort by outside organizations and officials. During the February 2018 episode, as first reported by the Free Beacon, the State Department mobilized to quash the BDS effort, which, as with this time, is not supported by Ireland's minority government.

None of that took place this time around, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter who described senior State Department officials as being left in the dark about the situation.

When news broke that Ireland is again moving forward with the BDS effort—which has majority support in the country's parliament and is moving closer to final passage—outside sources alerted the State Department, but were disappointed to find officials did not pursue the same course as last time by actively working to thwart the effort.

As the State Department sat on the sidelines, the Irish BDS effort has passed critical procedural hurdles.

"The State Department barely went through the motions of pressuring the Irish, even though this is a law that has enormous consequences for American citizens and American companies, and that's before you get to the consequences it has for our Israeli allies," according to one senior congressional official familiar with the situation. "Maybe they would have still lost if they actually put some effort into it but we'll never know. It's exasperating how they can't do even basic things right."

State Department officials, when pressed, would not comment on what happened behind-the-scenes, only telling the Free Beacon the administration opposes the BDS movement.

"The Trump administration's strong opposition to boycotts, divestiture and sanctions of the State of Israel is well known," State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino told the Free Beacon.

Some in the American pro-Israel community also were surprised to see that State Department stand on the sidelines, particularly in light of its efforts in 2018 to all but ensure the BDS legislation died.

"In light of their previous efforts and the administration's position on BDS, I was surprised to learn that the State Department did not engage with the Irish on this issue," said one senior official with a major pro-Israel organization who was not authorized to speak on record about the matter. "I imagine that when the secretary learns his staff dropped the ball here he'll be very displeased."

Published under: Israel , State Department