The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that calls for heavy fines to be imposed on Israeli citizens who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel, despite the Foreign Ministry's objections.
The Knesset approved an initial reading of the bill over six months ago. The bill will now move on to a first reading in the Knesset for approval. If it becomes a law, the fines would apply to anyone boycotting Israeli individuals, companies, factories, and organizations.
The bill was initiated by coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud), MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) and MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima).
"The bill was initiated in response to the phenomenon of academic and economic boycotts against Israeli that have recently been encountered in Israel," Elkin said.
"It is inconceivable that the state of Israel will support those who boycott it and Israeli companies that are harmed by boycotts, just because they are in Israel," he added.
Under the new law, any group could sue for damages of up to NIS 30,000 from anyone who launched a boycott against them, or incited a boycott, without having to prove that damage was indeed caused. An additional sum could then be demanded once damages were proven.
Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner, whose party co-sponsored the bill, said "the bill was originally meant to fight the phenomenon of foreign countries and bodies issue financial boycotts on Israel while receiving subsidies from the country."
Plesner said the bill was changed and it has not become a bill which is entirely devoted to "limiting the freedom of speech of the residents and citizens of Israel."
Ehud Keinan, Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Israel had enough tools to fight the boycotts against the country, and that the bill would hurt Israel's ability to fight boycotters outside of the country.
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