Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

The White House on late Thursday issued a statement in which it announced it partially opposes a new bipartisan trade bill, specifying only one part of the bill that calls to strengthen bilateral economic ties with Israel and fight BDS efforts to boycott the Jewish state.

The bill, entitled the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 or H.R.644, easily passed a bipartisan vote in Congress. According to the statement, US President Barack Obama intends to sign the bill into law.

However, the statement goes on to say: "As with any bipartisan compromise legislation, there are provisions in this bill that we do not support, including a provision that contravenes longstanding U.S. policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity."

No other opposition to the bill was expressed, indicating Obama's particular rejection of the section against BDS and the labeling of Jewish goods from certain regions. Obama has given his backing to the recent EU decision to label Jewish goods from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

He also in late January issued orders to importers to label all products from Judea and Samaria as not being from "Israel." A legal group has argued the orders were not merely "reissued" as the White House claimed, but rather indicated a policy change.

"Obama actively delegitimizes Israel"

A senior congressional aide involved in the matters of the bill was quoted by Washington Free Beacon as expressing shock at the White House statement, and the way it singles out Israel.

"This administration never misses an opportunity to take a swipe at Israel - even if it means criticizing bipartisan anti-BDS measures passed unanimously in the House and Senate,” said the source. 

“Don’t fall for any White House doublespeak: Opposing efforts to combat BDS equates to supporting BDS. That’s why history will show that President Obama actively advanced a movement solely aimed at delegitimizing the State of Israel.”

The bill in question calls among other things to "discourage actions by potential trading partners that directly or indirectly prejudice or otherwise discourage commercial activity solely between the United States and Israel."

It also calls on Obama to submit to Congress within 180 days of the ratification of the bill "a report on politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel."

That report is to include "decisions by foreign persons, including corporate entities and state-affiliated financial institutions, that limit or prohibit economic relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel."

The bill furthermore rules that domestic courts will not be able to recognize or enforce a foreign judgment against an American who "conducts business operations in Israel, or any territory controlled by Israel," if that foreign judgment is in any way based on a ruling of a foreign court finding that doing business in "any territory controlled by Israel" is a violation of law.