TEL AVIV – The Irish Senate on Tuesday postponed voting on a bill that would criminalize trade with Israeli settlements, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s condemnation of the proposed legislation.
The bill, titled “Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018,” would make it illegal for Irish individuals or companies to import goods produced in the Israeli settlements. Under the proposed law, even those who “assist another person to import or attempt to import settlement goods” could be subject to a five year prison sentence.
The government said it would possibly hold the vote after the parliament’s summer break barring progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“Settlement construction is consistently undercutting Palestinians’ hope for the future,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said, describing it as “unjust and provocative.” However, Coveney added that he was against boycotts.
“There are many countries around the world about which we have serious human rights concerns. We do not seek to prevent trade with those countries, except in very rare circumstances, in accordance with decisions at the EU or UN level,” he said.
He said that President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has meant that it is “more important than ever” that other countries take on a role in the moribund peace process and that such a bill could rule out Ireland for the task.
The law, if it passes, would threaten trade links between the U.S. and Ireland by subjecting U.S. companies with Irish subsidiaries to make a choice between violating the Irish law or violating the U.S. Export Administration Regulations, which bar companies from taking part in unsanctioned boycotts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement slamming the bill.
“The initiative gives backing to those who seek to boycott Israel and completely contravenes the guiding principles of free trade and justice,” his office said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry summoned the Irish ambassador in Israel, Alison Kelly, for a reprimand.