Israel Set to Vote on Controversial Law Penalizing Boycotters

Netanyahu: vote will take place as planned, despite Monday's Mideast Quartet meeting.

The controversial 'Boycott Bill' is expected to come up for its second and third votes in the Knesset on Monday, despite the prime minister's prior consideration to push for delaying the vote. The Knesset Legal Advisor is expected to announce his criticism of the bill and the opposition will hold a press conference to protest the bill.

The Boycott Law, which would apply a series of sanctions on a person or organization that calls for a boycott of Israel or on Israel's settlements, is expected to be put to a second and third vote of the Knesset plenum.

Protesters supporting Ariel boycott in 2010 - Nir Kafri
Nir Kafri

According to government sources, Prime Minister Netanyahu had originally considered delaying the vote in light of the Mideast Quartet meeting set to take place Monday in Washington D.C. Netanyahu's office announced early Monday morning that it would not impede any efforts at presenting the bill. 

The governing coalition is expected to support the bill, and the opposition, with the exception of the National Union, is rallying its Knesset members to oppose it. The bill would exact financial damages from initiators of economic, cultural or academic boycotts on the territories.

The bill would affect boycotts like the artists' boycott of the cultural center of Ariel and the commitment made by Israeli construction companies hired to carry out work on the planned Palestinian city of Rawabi to not use materials made in the settlements.

The bill's sponsor, coalition whip MK Ze'ev Elkin, said Sunday that he is considering postponing the vote on the bill by a week, out of fear that he will not be able to round up a majority of Knesset members to show up for the vote.

The main reason that Elkin fears he will have a hard time rounding up enough MKs is the wedding of the daughter of Shas MK Nissim Zeev on Sunday night, which is supposed to be attended by many members of the coalition, just hours before the vote is scheduled to take place. Despite this, Elkin estimated the chances of a postponement at only 20%.

Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Inon is expected to publish on Monday morning his legal opinion of the bill, criticizing it and the damage that it is expected to do to freedom of expression in Israel.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided on Sunday to allow Inon to present his position. If Inon points out serious legislative problems with the bill, Rivlin announced that he will consider postponing the plenum vote in order to confer with the prime minister, justice minister and coalition whip.

Elkin and other political sources, however, believe that the content of Inon's legal opinion will not lead to the postponement of the plenum vote. Elkin's confidence in the matter is due to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's previous announcement that he approves of the current version of the bill and agrees to defend it in the High Court of Appeal.