The Irish senate decided on Tuesday night to delay a vote on a bill outlawing importation or sale of products from over the Green Line, following a sharp condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
During a two-hour hearing on the issue, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the government opposes the bill and that Ireland should strive to be fair to both Israel and the Palestinians, according to public broadcaster RTE Ireland.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu condemned the bill, which had been set to be voted on in the Irish senate on Tuesday tonight.
The bill’s “sole purpose is to support the BDS movement and harm the State of Israel,” it was charged in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, adding that it “stands in complete contrast to the guiding principles of free trade and justice.”
Netanyahu has directed the Foreign Ministry to summon the Irish ambassador in Israel to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, The Hill news site pointed out that, if enacted as law, it could put U.S. companies with Irish subsidiaries in a compromising position, having to choose between complying with the new Irish law or with U.S. Export Administration Regulations, which prohibit U.S. firms from taking part in foreign boycotts, unless specifically sanctioned by Washington.
They could also run afoul of European Union law and international law. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said in June 2017:
“Blacklisting companies without even looking at their employment practices or their contributions to local empowerment, but rather based entirely on their location in areas of conflict, is contrary to the laws of international trade and to any reasonable definition of human rights.”
Although the proposed legislation does not name Israel, its co-sponsor Frances Black indicated that it would apply only to parts of Israel that lie over the Green Line.
As such, it would likely be the first law in Europe criminalizing trade with Israeli businesses.
Ireland, not Israel, would be the most to suffer, however, as it could seriously damage the country’s trade with the U.S. Investment by American companies in 2016 accounted for 67 percent of all foreign direct investment in Ireland.
According to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, approximately 700 U.S. companies employ over 150,000 people in Ireland. Among them: Apple, Dell, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and Twitter.
The law would punish violators with up to five years in prison.