March 4, 2016
Thank you for contacting me about legislation opposing the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement and Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. I appreciate your taking the time to contact me about this issue.
Like you, I continue to support efforts that promote a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. However, I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel because the movement isolates, delegitimizes, and stigmatizes Israel. The movement represents a counterproductive attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside direct negotiations between the two parties. Such action only serves to undermine efforts to achieve a two-state solution. My colleagues in the House and Senate have recently introduced legislation aimed at codifying congressional opposition to the BDS movement. The BDS movement polarizes parties to the conflict, and Congress has a constructive role to play in mitigating the harmful effects of the BDS movement in the same way that it has successfully defended Israel against boycotts in the past.
In November 2015 the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, issued an interpretive notice requiring all products produced in Israeli settlements to be labeled “Made in Settlements.” In response, Senators Rubio and Wyden introduced S. Res. 346, a resolution condemning the EU guidelines and other efforts to boycott Israeli products. I am strongly considering co-sponsoring S. Res. 346 because Congress has an important role to play in speaking out against policies that unfairly stigmatize Israel.
I also am also considering support for the Combating BDS Act of 2016, S. 2531, which was recently introduced by Senators Kirk and Manchin. The bill authorizes state and local governments to divest from companies participating in the BDS movement. The bill also protects private investment companies that engage in anti-BDS policies from being targeted by foreign courts. I am strongly considering co-sponsoring the Combating BDS Act of 2016 because it counters the growing international efforts designed to isolate Israel. The bill reaffirms the United States’ strong economic ties to Israel and the need to counter the increased political and economic isolation of Israel. As our strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, I believe it is essential to support the economic stability and political independence of Israel.
Your concerns regarding continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are important to me. However, I do not believe imposing sanctions on Israel or supporting the BDS movement is a constructive way to address Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. Both the Obama Administration and the European Union have expressed concerns over the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and called on all parties to refrain from actions that would undercut the possibility of a return to peace talks. Israelis and Palestinians must work together to pursue policies that strengthen the chance for a two-state solution. Any resolution to the dispute regarding settlements must respect the rights, concerns, and interests of all parties involved. All stakeholders should take steps toward peace and avoid actions that would antagonize opponents or violate the basic principles of humanitarian law.
As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I will work to advocate for a peaceful resolution to disputes between Israelis and Palestinians. Working to promote a comprehensive, two-state solution is in America’s interest, and I will oppose legislation that impairs the United States’ ability to engage constructively with all parties to the conflict. I believe the two pieces of legislation outlined above not only affirm U.S. support for fair treatment of Israel, but also support efforts toward a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite recent set-backs in the peace process, I am hopeful that the United States and international community will continue to support negotiations that can lead to a sustainable and lasting peace that preserves the security of Israel and the dignity of Palestinians.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I am honored to represent Delaware in the United States Senate and truly value hearing from Delawareans on issues of concern. My website, www.coons.senate.gov, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.
Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator
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