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US Senate approves anti-BDS bill, slowdown of Syria withdrawal

7 February 2019, 12:01:00

The US Senate has passed legislation defining United States security policy in the Middle East, introducing a measure that would allow state and local governments to sanction those who support boycotts, divesture and sanctions against Israel.

Tuesday's Senate vote, which was 77-23, sends the legislation to the House of Representatives where it will likely face renewed debate, politicians said.

The legislation authorises $3.3bn a year for 10 years in US military aid to Israel, reauthorises the US-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act and imposes financial sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or companies and banks that do business with Damascus.

‘Israel is without a doubt one of the best friends in the world,’ Senator Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in remarks to the Senate. ‘Certainly, in that neighbourhood they live in, which is a dangerous neighbourhood, they need our help. We worked with them very closely in many, many respects.’

The legislation, which consolidated four bills that did not make it to Congress last year, drew controversy in the Senate and opposition from a number of senators because of added language authorising state and local governments to terminate contracts with US citizens who support the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The anti-BDS measure "is designed to see that the BDS activity is tamped down and that it is not appropriate to use against our friend, Israel", Risch said.


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