Netanyahu: Boycott law reflects democracy in Israel

In a heated Knesset debate, prime minister defends controversial law which bans calls for boycotts on Israel; opposition head Livni: You are leading the country into an abyss.

By Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Wednesday the boycott law, which was passed in the Knesset Monday night. The law, which penalizes people or organizations who call for a boycott on Israel or the settlements, provoked sharp criticism from opposition MKs and leftist organizations in Israel.

Netanyahu said the law does not taint Israeli democracy. “What stains (Israel’s) image are those savage and irresponsible attacks on a democracy’s attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not,” he said.

Don’t get confused,” Netanyahu continued. “I approved the law, and if I hadn’t approved it it wouldn’t have passed. I am against boycotts targeting Israel.” Netanyahu spoke of the settler families who might be affected by boycotts. “We have brothers living eleven minutes away from here, in Ma’ale Adumim. You want to get rid of Ariel and Gush Etzion? Go to the Knesset and form a government that will act that way. But hurting families and children in Ariel? I find that illegitimate .”

Netanyahu also mentioned the political freedom enjoyed by Sheikh Raad Saleh of the Islamic Movement and MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad). “Do you know Sheikh Raad Saleh? He is walking freely and speaks everywhere. And he wasn’t allowed into Britain.” Referring to Zuabi, Netanyahu said “an MK who spoke here took part of a the provocation flotilla that was trying to break a security naval blockade.”

Kadima chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni took the podium after Netanyahu and blamed him for using others’ weaknesses to gain more power. “You are leading Israel into an abyss,” she said.

On Tuesday, Israeli leftist organizations launched a series of protests against the boycott law passed in the Knesset the night before.

The Gush Shalom movement took its campaign to the legal level and filed a petition to the Supreme Court claiming the boycott law is unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

According to the law, a person or an organization calling for the boycott of Israel, including the settlements, can be sued by the boycott’s targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. The court will then decide how much compensation is to be paid. The second part of the law says a person or a company that declare a boycott of Israel or the settlements will not be able to bid in government tenders.

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