Anti-Israel Bill in Ireland Close to Becoming Law

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An anti-Israel bill in Ireland's parliament took another step Thursday to becoming law. If enacted, the bill would prohibit companies with business in Ireland from doing business in parts of Israel.

On Thursday, the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, approved the measure by a 78-45 vote.

The Irish Times described the law as "ban[ning] the sale of imported Israeli goods from the occupied territories in Palestine." Ireland's upper house, the Seanad Éireann, passed the law in May 2018.

The bill raises a number of issues for the Irish government.

First, the Israeli government has reacted with outrage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the bill was "indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism." Rather than attending to the "slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians" in Syria, the "occupation of northern Cyprus" by Turkey, and "the terrorist organizations" attacking Israel, the bill targets Israel, "the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace." Netanyahu delivered an "angry rebuke" to the Irish ambassador Friday. Former Defense Minister and political leader Avigdor Lieberman called on Israel to shutter its Dublin embassy in response to the law.

Second, there are concerns the law runs afoul of European Union agreements. According to the Irish Times, the Irish ambassador assured Netanyahu the elected government would not implement the law. She warned the law "would put Ireland in breach of EU law and expose Dublin to legal action by the European Commission." Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also warned that the bill is "not legally sound."

Third, the law would seriously jeopardize Ireland's business and diplomatic relationship with the United States. Federal law currently prohibits American companies from participating in overseas boycotts. Major companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Google have business in Ireland, and would likely be affected by the law. Given the choice between business in the U.S. and business in Ireland, these companies would likely leave Ireland in the lurch.

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland warned that the law could raise new problems. "We believe that the provisions in relation to its trade and investment implications require further examination, particularly in the context of the recently announced US-EU Trade Agreement negotiations," it said Thursday.

Finally, the law might actually hurt the Palestinians the measure intends to support. Israeli officials have warned the law would harm the thousands of Palestinians working in the West Bank, which Ireland does not recognize as rightfully Israeli. The Irish Times reports the Irish government agrees: should the bill become law, "the Government is also concerned that it will have less influence in the region and lose its ability to help the Palestinians."

The United States, with its strong support for Israel, is moving opposite the Irish parliament. The Senate is currently considering a bill to support Israeli opposition to international boycotts. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) introduced S.1, originally titled "A bill to make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize the appropriation of funds to Israel, to reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, and to halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, and for other purposes." The bill proposes to strengthen American support for Israel in defiance of BDS and other anti-Israel efforts by prohibiting federal contracting with organizations that refuse to work with Israel.