Amid US travel ban, Israel set to bar entry to boycott activists
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Amid US travel ban, Israel set to bar entry to boycott activists

Final votes on law scheduled for Monday; legislation extends to those who back boycott of settlement goods; Israeli politicians mum on new Trump travel restrictions

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protesters supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel demonstrate ahead of a Pharrell Williams concert outside Grand West Arena on September 21, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa (Michelly Rall/Getty Images)
Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protesters supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel demonstrate ahead of a Pharrell Williams concert outside Grand West Arena on September 21, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa (Michelly Rall/Getty Images)

The Knesset on Monday is scheduled to pass into law a bill that would bar advocates of boycotting Israel from the country.

The proposed legislation, advanced by right-wing and centrist coalition lawmakers, would see Israel prevent foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of the Jewish state or work on behalf of an organization that advocates these measures from entering Israel.

The law also extends to supporters of boycotts of West Bank settlement products, resting on a legal definition of an Israel boycott in a 2011 law that includes all “areas under its control.”

It would not apply to foreign nationals who have a residency permit and gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions. Under the existing law, the interior minister already has the right to bar individuals from entering Israel.

The bill was approved in its first reading in November, with 42 lawmakers in favor, 15 opposed, and seven abstentions.

An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

A spokesperson for Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich, one of the lawmakers spearheading the bill, confirmed the final votes were currently on the agenda for Monday. The bill had been on last week’s plenary schedule, but was later removed without explanation.

The final legal hurdle for the controversial proposal, first introduced over a year ago, come days after US President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Without going into the policies of the [US] president, every sovereign nation must set its policies in accordance with what is good for it,” said Smotrich’s spokesperson. “The State of Israel need not and cannot allow entry to those calling for a boycott of it. The BDS leaders are working to spread anti-Semitism in the world and do everything in their power to harm the State of Israel. There is no reason to allow them entry to the State of Israel.”

Critics of the bill have charged that it silences legitimate political dissent on Israeli policy.

Israel in December for the first time refused entry to a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Isabel Piri, from Malawi, arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport as a tourist, but was refused entry as information available to immigration control showed Piri was active in the World Council of Churches, which supports boycotting products from West Bank settlements.

Since Trump’s Friday announcement, Israeli leaders — from the coalition, opposition, and Israel’s Arab political party — have not commented on the new policy roiling the US, Europe, and Muslim countries.

But as the US president signed the order, the Interior Ministry announced Friday it had kicked off procedures paving the way for Israel to absorb 100 orphan children from war-torn Syria.

“Civilians have been slaughtered for years only a few dozen kilometers from Israel,” Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement on Friday. “I have decided to order professionals in my ministry to work toward absorbing children on humanitarian grounds in order to render assistance and rescue 100 of them from the horrors and afford them good and normal lives in Israel.”

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