Briefing note: Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill – House of Lords

On Tuesday 20th February (2024), Members of Parliament will vote on the second reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.

The Palestinian Mission to the UK expresses its grave concern about the bill. The proposed legislation encroaches upon and contradicts long-standing UK policy to differentiate between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.  The UK does not recognise Occupied Palestinian territory, which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as part of Israel. For this reason, goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the oPt are not entitled to tariff or trade preferences under either the agreement that the UK has with Israel or the agreement between the UK and Palestine.

In 2016, the UK was instrumental in the drafting of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which mandates states to distinguish “between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” in their “dealings” with the State of Israel. This bill puts the UK in breach of its own commitments.

Penalizing public bodies for making ethical investment and procurement decisions that are in line with UK policy and international law, this bill seeks to secure exceptional treatment and impunity for Israel’s actions.

The UK recently imposed sanctions on Israeli settlers that have been involved in attacks against Palestinians. Foreign Secretary David Cameron accused “extreme settlers” of “undermining security and stability for both Palestinian and Israeli communities.” Yet concurrently the government is putting forward a bill that emboldens Israel’s state-sponsored colonial settlement enterprise that in itself is a grave violation of international law. 

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