The Campaign to Legislate Support for Settlements

by Lara Friedman

In 2014, opponents of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel began promoting legislation in various U.S. states denouncing the BDS movement.

In 2015, these efforts shifted/expanded to mirror efforts in the U.S. Congress to hijack concerns about BDS against Israel in order to pass legislation mandating that Israeli settlements be treated, in effect, as part of sovereign Israel.

At the outset of 2016, it is already clear that these efforts are continuing and building. Indeed, the clear trend at the state-level is moving away from anti-BDS resolutions in favor of binding legislation to – in effect – have states boycott, divest from, and sanction companies that engage in BDS against Israel, or that in any concrete way differentiate between Israel and the settlements.

This table  — which will be updated regularly and which is based on data drawn from the websites of the various state legislatures — is intended to help people understand and follow what is happening at the state level.

(Do you know about legislation missing from the table? Please let me know – [email protected]).

APN rejects this cynical effort to exploit concerns about BDS, among legislators in various U.S. states, in order to erase the distinction between Israel and the occupied territories.  As we have noted in other contexts:

  • This conflation flies in the face of nearly 5 decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements. Since 1967, every president, regardless of party, has maintained this policy.  And until recently, every Congress, regardless of which party was in control, supported this policy, including in law (e.g., legislation barring Israel from using U.S. loan guarantees in areas occupied in 1967).  Indeed, never before in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, until now, has there been any serious effort to legislate U.S. support for settlements.
  • This conflation threatens the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Despite U.S. opposition, successive Israeli governments have continued to build in settlements for decades, eroding both the credibility and the viability of the two-state solution. Legislating support for settlements at the State or Federal level can only encourage further construction, undermining the chances for ever resolving this conflict.
  • This conflation contradicts all U.S. commitments to negotiations as the only means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By granting “legitimacy” to settlements, these laws seek to impose specific elements of a solution on the parties, outside of negotiations. The future of the occupied territories – and the settlements Israel has built in them – will be determined through negotiations, not by unilateral actions by either side, nor by actions at the United Nations or by the international community, nor by acts of Congress or state legislatures.
  • Those who adopt this conflation are, deliberately or unwittingly, playing into the hands of BDS, rather than fighting it.  They are making common cause with and fueling hardliners and zealots on both sides, including in the BDS movement, who likewise fail to distinguish between Israel and the occupied territories. They seek, instead, a zero-sum goal of one nation, be it Israel or Palestine, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • This conflation further discredits America and American leadership in the Middle East arena – an arena in which even Israel’s closest allies– countries that have not adopted anything even resembling BDS against Israel – have run out of patience with Israeli leaders who talk about supporting two states but keep building settlements.
  • This conflation pointlessly puts the U.S. on a collision course with its own allies. It does so not for the sake of supporting and defending Israel, but for the sake of defending settlements – settlements built in defiance of almost 50 years of U.S. policy and settlements which the Israeli government continues to build, in contradiction to a genuine commitment to achieving a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • This conflation represents an extraordinary twisting of reality. Israel and the settlements are not the same thing. State legislators would do well to note that Israel has never annexed the West Bank, meaning that under Israeli law, the West Bank is not considered part of Israel, and under international law and Israeli court decisions the West Bank is deemed as being held in a state of belligerent military occupation. Distinguishing between Israel and settlements is neither discrimination against nor unfair treatment of Israel. Rather, it reflects this objective reality, and is both pro-Israel and pro-peace. This is true whether talking about the new EU interpretive notice relating to settlement products, or longstanding U.S. Customs rules, or the longstanding policy of Congress that U.S. aid cannot be used in the settlements.

Photo: Israeli settlement near Jerusalem

Reprinted, with permission, from the Americans for Peace Now blog

Lara Friedman

Lara Friedman is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.



  1. The illegal Jewish colonies in the occupied West Bank will not become legal merely because foolish American encourage the growth of those illegal colonies of Jews.

  2. I wish Americans for Peace Now much luck with this campaign, but I wouldn’t want to bet real money on its success. Some of the bulleted points Ms Friedman makes do not line up with reality. Official policy with respect to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a pile of garbage. While the US professes to be opposed to the occupation, it provides “foreign aid” in the billions of dollars annually in support of it. Policy may claim support for (the long dead and rotting corpse of) a two-state solution, yet for decades Washington has played along with the sham peace process in which, as Aaron David Miller has pointed out, US negotiators operate as Israel’s lawyers. The US reaps what it sows; the CIA calls it blowback.

    Israelis, who are far from stupid, have waited two thousand years for a state of their own. They have learnt patience. They know they will be in full and legal possession of Greater Israel if they can just keep playing America and its taxpayers like a fiddle. They have picked a good moment for a major step toward that goal, for the only country on the planet for which American imperial decline is not blatantly visible is America itself – and even at that, it’s mostly the American political class and its fawning media who are still in denial. Only when a critical mass of Americans, supported by America’s allies, demands that their government stop financing the occupation while lying about it will the theft and the butchery end.

  3. “legislation mandating that Israeli settlements be treated, in effect, as part of sovereign Israel.”

    After almost 50 years of occupation the reality is that there is one state that includes Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and the international community should treat it as such by requiring equal rights to ALL inhabitants. The Zionists have made a two-state solution impossible and we should recognize it and boycott and sanction Israel until one-state with equal rights to all becomes a reality. Considering the strength of Israel and the fact that most diaspora Jews blindly support and do Israel’s bidding, it may seem impossible but Apartheid South Africa was dismantled even though the U.S. fought it until it became inevitable.

    The U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379 was right; Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.

  4. Virtually every country on the planet, other than Israel itself, views the Jewish colonies in the occupied West Bank as illegal. How does this problem go away?

Comments are closed.