British gov’t minister warns municipal councils considering Israel boycott
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British gov’t minister warns municipal councils considering Israel boycott

(JTA) — A British Cabinet minister threatened to take investment decisions away from municipal councils if they choose to boycott Israel.

The office of Sajid Javid, Britain’s secretary for communities, issued the warning this week in a statement following a similar warning he made earlier in the week at a meeting with Jewish religious leaders at the Chief Rabbi’s Conference, The Jewish News of London reported Wednesday.

Amid growing recognition that unions are urging a boycott of Israel, the government has issued new guidance aimed at preventing local authorities deciding against purchases from companies or countries on ideological grounds.

Any council found flouting the new rules “could face action, including the possibility of having power over these investment decisions taken away, with central government stepping in instead,” Javid’s office said.

During the meeting with Jewish leaders, the minister, who was business secretary under former Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “Wildcat boycotts and sanctions have no place in these crucial [investment] decisions, and I will not hesitate to act if any council decides to introduce restrictions that are not in line with U.K. foreign and defense policy.”

In February, the government announced that municipal councils, public bodies and student unions must refrain from boycotting Israeli goods — a move that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said was “an attack on local democracy.”

Unions have long supported a boycott of Israel. The largest, UNISON, first voted to do in June 2007. Since then, several councils have voted to boycott, including two in Wales, four in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland, but legal challenges have reversed many of the decisions.

Companies to have been targeted include security contractor G4S, technology giant Hewlett Packard and Eden Springs, which provides water coolers and coffee machines.