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Bill to punish anti-Israel boycotters passes first Knesset hurdle(Haaretz)
The Knesset plenum on Monday approved in its first reading a "boycott law," which would levy harsh punitive fines on Israelis who call for academic or economic boycotts against Israeli institutions.
The controversial bill was put forth by 24 Knesset members, including Kadima party whip Dalia Itzik, coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud ) and committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ).
The bill was supported by 32 members of Knesset, while 12 MKs opposed.
The draft law also calls for imposing sanctions against foreign nationals and organizations that call for anti-Israel boycotts, as well as against states that pass legislation giving such boycotts the force of law.
Elkin said prior to the vote that while in the United States it is considered illegal to boycott Israel - punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $1 million - the Israeli legal system cannot punish an Israeli who urges an American company to boycott his own country.
"This is an important and reasonable bill that will enable us to continue to ask the U.S. to take legal action against its citizens who boycott Israel," Elkin said.
Kadima faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik voted against the bill, and said that "it has nothing to do with the left or the right, for or against Arabs. MK Elkin, this is not what the poet intended. As a private civilian, do you want to put me in jail? You have taken the bill too far."
The Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Industry, Trade and Labor are fiercely opposed to the bill, on the grounds that it will not achieve its stated purpose of curbing boycotts and will only hamper efforts to cope with boycotts and the delegitimization of Israel on an international level.
Representatives of these ministries told the committee that the law would violate the right to freedom of expression and could damage Israel's relations with the European Union and the Foreign Ministry's freedom of action.