Senate Dems split with White House on Israel trade provisions

Six Democratic senators on Thursday broke with the White House in saying that they support provisions in two laws ensuring free trade with Israel.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill McConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule MORE (Nev.) was joined by Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (N.Y.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (Ore.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon MORE (Md.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHow Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response Our national forests need protection — and Congress can help MORE (Colo.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) in urging the Obama administration to implement provisions in the recent trade laws — trade promotion authority (TPA) and customs enforcement — arguing that they are consistent with U.S. policy.

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“While the Obama administration has reiterated its opposition to boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, it has mischaracterized the TPA and customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements," the senators said in a statement.

"This simply is not the case. These provisions are not about Israeli settlements," they said. 

They argued that the provisions in the two laws are in line with U.S. policy and are about discouraging commercial actions "aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

“In recent years, we have seen some of our trading partners engage in a number of politically motivated, misguided commercial boycotts and sanctions against Israel," they said.

They noted that "such actions run counter to longstanding U.S. policy" and that it is "incumbent upon the United States to use every diplomatic tool to stop our trading partners from imposing such misguided actions."

The senators said that such policy has long been reflected in the U.S.-Israel trade deal, which doesn't "distinguish tariff treatment among products based on whether they were produced in Israeli territories."

The customs measure was signed by President Obama on Wednesday and TPA was signed into law last summer. 

In the past several months several U.S. trading partners have dismissed new rules furthering the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as "mere consumer awareness," they said.

"But the rise in the BDS movement correlates with growing anti-Semitism around the globe. Therefore, it is critical that we address this issue."