Knesset Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset approved on Monday the second and third readings of the ‘Boycott Bill’ which prevents companies from participating in government bids if they take part in a boycott of a business in Israel.

The bill, which passed by a majority of 47 to 38, stipulates that anyone calling for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will be unable to participate in government tenders. In addition, any person who considers himself a victim of a boycott could sue the boycotter for compensation.

Several Knesset members did not attend Monday’s vote, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The other members of Barak’s Independence Party, who earlier said they would not support the bill, were also absent during the vote, with MK Einat Wilf explaining, “We decided not to harm the residents of Judea and Samaria who were sent by the governments of Israel to live in the region, but on the other hand the law is disproportionate and therefore we decided not to participate in this vote.”

Coalition chairman and Likud faction chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin, who sponsored the bill, welcomed its approval.

“The Knesset has put an end to the stupidity of boycotts that originate within us,” he said. “The boycott law is not intended to shut mouths but rather to protect the citizens of Israel.”

Elkin expressed disappointment in the members of Kadima, who denounced the bill and voted against it after originally being among its initiators.

“Kadima’s zigzag, when [opposition leader Tzipi] Livni made the party members remove their names from the law despite them being among the initiators, proves that it is a party without an ideology and that is has acceded to leftist organizations, thus finally placing Kadima on the left side of the map,” Elkin said.

Kadima said in response to the bill’s passing, “Netanyahu’s government hurts Israel and should be the first to pay the price of the boycott law. Netanyahu’s running away from tonight’s vote does not diminish from his responsibility for the harm he causes the State. Netanyahu crossed a line today of political silliness and national irresponsibility. The boycott law is a mark of disgrace on the forehead of Netanyahu’s government and it will cost the State of Israel and its citizens a heavy price.”

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) welcomed the passing of the bill, saying, “The law is a big democratic victory over Israel’s enemies at home and abroad and over the Arabs and their allies on the far anti-Israel left, who are concentrating all their efforts to force the will of the anti-Zionist minority on the Zionist majority in Israel.”

After the law was passed, Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan asked Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to issue regulations which would prevent Israeli companies who participate in the Arab boycott of Israel to take part in government tenders.

“Those who preferred to alienate Israelis to make some money from Arabs should not be provided for by the Israeli government,” Dayan wrote Steinitz. “Please follow the section of the boycott law authorizing you to act to prevent this.”

Meanwhile, Balad faction chairman MK Jamal Zahalka denounced the law, calling for a mass violation of it and saying it was a clearly unconstitutional law.

“The Knesset has become the home base of the enemies of democracy and every week it produces a new racist or anti-democratic law,” Zahalka said.

The boycott law was initiated after it became known that several Israeli firms had agreed to boycott Jews in Judea and Samaria in order to win contracts for the new Palestinian Authority city of Rawabi, near Ramallah.

The Infrastructure Ministry subsequently slapped sanctions against those firms, saying it “will not tolerate discrimination between different groups of citizens that is contrary to the basic values of the State of Israel.”

After the boycott law was passed, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said he was preparing the first lawsuit under its provisions, against Israeli company Teldor which is one of those companies involved in laying infrastructure in Rawabi, and as such has signed a document certifying that it does not do business in Judea and Samaria.

Ben-Ari said that he would file a complaint against Teldor unless it immediately declared that it was not participating in a boycott of Judea and Samaria. “The rule of law must be upheld,” he emphasized.