Norway says boycotting Israeli West Bank settlements is legal, but unhelpful
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Norway says boycotting Israeli West Bank settlements is legal, but unhelpful

Move comes as multiple Norwegian cities seek to declare divestment actions; Oslo government warns such measures do not contribute to resolving the conflict

A Palestinian woman walks by a sign calling for a boycott of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
A Palestinian woman walks by a sign calling for a boycott of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

After a lengthy review, the Norwegian foreign ministry has concluded that boycotts of goods and services from Israeli settlements are legal under the country’s laws.

In an internal report made public over the weekend, the ministry says there is no legal impediment to Norway’s municipalities declaring such boycotts, but recommends against doing so, calling such actions inappropriate and unhelpful, according to the Ynet news site.

Several local governments in Norway have sought to declare boycotts of Israel’s West Bank settlements in recent years, leading the country’s foreign ministry to launch a study in November 2016 into their legality.

The study was seen as a measure meant to head off the growing number of boycott announcements, and, indeed, many municipalities delayed similar measures until the foreign ministry released its conclusions.

According to the report, boycotts of settlements by local councils and town governments do not violate Norway’s domestic laws, nor its obligations under international free trade treaties.

The report is signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Audun Halvorsen, who notes in the report the government’s position that despite the boycotts’ legality, “the government does not believe that boycotts can help resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Norway hosted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the early 1990s that led to the Oslo peace accords.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon slammed the ministerial report’s findings.

“If in Norway boycotting another country isn’t against the law, then there’s something wrong with the law. You don’t have to be a legal genius to understand that a boycott against a democratic nation is fundamentally illegitimate and constitutes a surrender to hate-filled extremists,” Nahshon said in a Hebrew-language Twitter post.

Among the local authorities that have declared boycotts on settlement products in the past were the cities of Trondheim and Tromso in 2016, the towns of Bodo and Lillehammer in 2017, and last week the municipality of Vaksdal, a community of little more that 4,000 people in the west of the country.

In 2016 Norway’s largest union, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions went a step further and called for an international economic, cultural and academic boycott against Israel — and not just settlement products. The confederation, which also called for Norway to recognize a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders, was criticized by the Norwegian government.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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