The Knesset approved on Wednesday an initial reading of a bill calling for heavy fines to be imposed on Israeli citizens who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel. If approved into law, the fines would apply to anyone boycotting Israeli individuals, companies, factories, and organizations.

"In the U.S. there is are laws aimed at preventing Americans from boycotting U.S. allies, including Israel. It appears that in light of the reality in Israel, we need a similar law that applies to Israeli citizens," said the bill's sponsors - coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud), MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) and MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima).

Under the new law, any group could sue 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.

The bill comes in response to a wide range of boycotts – financial, academic, and others – that have recently been encountered in Israel. Elkin said Tuesday that "we mustn't accept boycotts against Israel, whether academic or economic. The state must protect itself from the increasing processes of delegitimization, and provide compensation to those harmed by it."

"The wall-to-wall support of this bill proves that members of Knesset recognize the need to maintain a balance between democratic rights and the premeditated targeting of Israeli bodies," Elkin went on to say.