TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation that would bar the state’s public pension fund from investing with companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.
The Republican governor, pointing a finger at Democratic President Barack Obama for criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, signed the legislation on Tuesday during a statehouse ceremony.
“Israel is the beacon of democracy in a region that is constantly in turmoil,” Christie said.
The legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Democrat-led state Legislature in June.
The measure is part of a broader effort to oppose a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets Israel and Israeli businesses. The BDS movement, made up of unions, academic associations, churches and other grassroots efforts, describes itself as a Palestinian-led push “for freedom, justice and equality.”
Christie said New Jersey does $1.3 billion in trade with Israel every year and called the Middle Eastern country the United States’ “one, true and best friend.”
The legislation requires the State Investment Council, which manages more than $80 billion in pension assets, to identify any potential investments in companies with Israeli boycotts and to divest from them.
The prohibition does not apply to firms giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through certain organizations unless the organizations also are engaging in prohibited boycotts.
Obama said in a statement accompanying a trade bill signed in February that his administration “strongly opposes” boycott campaigns directed at Israel. He also said, though, the law was contrary to longstanding policy with regard to Israeli settlements.