Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor at Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA)
With the U.S. Trade Promotion Authority signed into law, the EU must think twice before imposing discriminatory sanctions and restrictions against Israel, especially in the context of TTIP.
Last week, US President Barak Obama signed into law the sweeping Trade Promotion Authority, which includes an important new federal legislation, the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, opposing boycotts and other economic warfare against Israel.
The law will significantly increase the legal and economic risks for the EU and companies worldwide, to pass discriminatory sanctions and restrictions against Israel.
The central provision requires U.S. trade negotiators, when negotiating trade agreements, to seek to “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel.”
This measure is particularly timely as the law will apply to a major future trade negotiation with the European Union as threats to impose economic restrictions on Israel remain. In the meantime, under mounting Western diplomatic and economic pressure, Israel has been assiduously cultivating ties with Asia, in particular India and China.
The EU should be aware of these developments. While EU-Israel relations are developing in various sectors – the EU being not only Israel’s main trade partner but the two sides sharing common values-, political relations are currently rather tense over Israeli suspicions that the EU is planning to impose ‘’sanctions’’ if peace talks with the Palestinians are not renewed.
The EU has a bad image in Israel as there is always a flavour of ‘’pressure’’ in all conversations with EU officials.
Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for the government’s anti-BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) campaign, deplored EU’s stance on Israel, saying that only the EU is putting pressure and threatening economic sanctions on Israel.
‘’Helping organisations to delegitimize Israel won’t promote peace but will take us into the other direction,’’ he said.
‘’Europe should not put pressure only on one partner as it makes Palestinians believe that they can achieve something without taking the hard decisions, without confronting the terror infrastructure,’’ the minister insisted.
While insisting that peace cannot be achieved only by signing an agreement between governments, Israel has made the case over and over that the EU must educate people on the conditions of such an agreement and to prepare them for making the necessary sacrifices.
He made clear that Israel was ready to make them with the Palestinians, as it did with Egypt. ‘’When you don’t have talks, when Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President) takes only unilateral step, it encourages those who resort to terrorism to stay on the same path,’’ he said, stressing that peace is something everyone in Israel desires but ‘’we won’t accept it if it strengthens terrorist organisations.’’
A former head of Israel’s General Security Services (Shin Bet), Yaakov Peri, has become the new chairman of the Knesset delegation for relations with the European Parliament. A member of Israel’s parliament for the Yesh Atid centrist party, 71-year-old Peri will meet a delegation of MEPs in November.
He has the arduous task to strengthen the bilateral relations and to bring to the European Parliament an articulated voice.