When President Obama signed the Trade Promotion Authority bill in June this year, concerns were raised by a State Department spokesman about the provisions. These provisions instruct the US to implement a policy with the aim of “discouraging politically motivated actions of boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” by foreign countries.
As a report in the Washington Post notes, a State Department press statement stressed the fact the president will neither enforce nor nullify any part of the law (1).
“The US government has never defended or supported Israeli settlement or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimise them,” said the State Department spokesman John Kirby.
The White House was quick to put to bed any notion that the US was reversing longstanding American opposition to Israeli settlements. Kirby went on to reinforce the point that since 1967, every US administration had opposed Israeli settlements and recognized they are an obstacle to a “two-state solution.”
However, as the Washington Post notes, the State Department’s comments “badly mischaracterize US policy on the matter”, due to the fact the US has not constantly opposed settlement. The Washington Post article gives examples of both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush expressing varying degrees of support for the settlements.
Regardless of its stance on the settlements, the problem is that Congress is not supposed to be legislating trade regimes and that legislating a particular trade regime toward certain territories has no legal basis.
So why is Congress so intent on introducing provisions to laws that seek to discourage boycotts and economic sanctions against Israel?
Big US Businesses like Israel’s Money
One reason could be to do with the fact large businesses in the US have grown fond of Israel’s money. This sentiment can be backed up with a story that surfaced in May this year about James Packer being “in bed” with the Israeli prime minister.
The Australian businessman, who in May 2015, ranked as having a net worth of $6.08 billion AUD, recently bought a home in Tel Aviv next door to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to a report in the Australian National Review, one of Packer’s business partners described him as “the first non-Jewish Zionist in history” (3).
“The billionaire’s decision to purchase a house in Israel has attracted attention because it remains unclear what his business interests are in the Middle East,” writes the Australian National Review.
In an editorial in Veteran’s Today, author Alan Hart, a former BBC Panorama foreign correspondent, cites an article by Gideon Levy that claims the greatest mystery of all, are the relations between Israel and the USA (2).
Hart’s article explores the relationship between Israel, the US Congress and treason. The article was seemingly fueled by the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s recent comments that any UK citizens who are jihadists and travel to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS could be tried for treason.
Hart goes on to ask the question – what is a traitor? To which he replies, “Someone who is not loyal and betrays his or her own country.”
Based on that surmise, Hart says that in the “simple logic of common-sense”, it could be strongly argued that those who are elected to the US Congress and prioritize interests of foreign power (Israel) before those of their own country are traitors, “because they are endangering America’s own best interests and by doing do, should be charged with treason.”
In a surprise appearance in the US Congress in March this year to hear Netanyahu’s speech, Packer told a reporter how he had become friends with the Israeli prime minister and had bought a house in Tel Aviv.
A report in the Jewish Business News states how Packer has been reportedly looking at business ventures in Israeli’s tech sector.
Besides the monetary and business opportunities “being in bed” with Israel provides, there is also huge money developed from pro-Israel groups that is helping to fund the campaigns of politicians.
MapLight, “a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics” makes public a list of the pro-Israel group’s money funding campaigns of US congressmen and women to gauge an understanding of why Congress might seek to discourage economic sanctions and boycotts against Israel.
What do you think? Is there financial motivation for politicians to support Israel?