A History of U.S. Efforts to Combat Boycotts of Israel

Summary: The United States has long defined Israel’s survival and security as important to its own national interests. To this end, Congress and successive administrations have sought to deepen bilateral economic ties and protect Israel against pernicious boycott efforts. American courts have consistently upheld legislation opposing such boycotts.

1959 – Congress passes legislation expressing opposition to the Arab League Boycott. 
 
1965 – Congress mandates reporting of any requests to participate in the boycott of Israel made by Arab League members to U.S. companies. 
 
1976 – Congress includes the Ribicoff Amendment in the 1976 Tax Reform Act, which denies tax benefits to firms that participate in the Arab League Boycott. 
 
1977 – Congress includes a provision in the Export Administration Act (EAA) barring compliance with the Arab League Boycott and authorizing penalties to enforce it. Congress also approves the creation and funding of three bilateral U.S.-Israel foundations to promote commercial, agriculture and scientific cooperation.  
 
1979 – Congress extends the EAA and includes further anti-boycott provisions.  
 
1983 – Trane Co. v. Baldrige acknowledges that the government has a substantial interest in “forestalling attempts by foreign governments to ‘embroil American citizens in their battles against others by forcing them to participate in actions which are repugnant to American values and traditions.’” 
 
1984
– Briggs Stratton Corp. v. Baldrige stresses that federal courts have found there is no First Amendment right “to answer questions asked by Arab boycott offices pursuant to the Arabs’ trade boycott of Israel.” 
 
1985 – The U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is signed, constituting America’s first free trade agreement. The FTA galvanizes expanded trade and investment between the two allies.    

2005 – The U.S. government secures a commitment from Saudi Arabia to end its boycott against Israel during negotiations for the Gulf state to accede to the World Trade Organization. 
 
2005/2006
– As a condition of approving free trade agreements with Bahrain (2005) and Oman (2006), Congress mandates that the two countries dismantle their boycott activities against Israel.
 
2015
– Congress passes both the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act. These statutes discourage U.S. trading partners from politically-motivated commercial actions against Israel. The Minority Leader and a group of other senior Democratic senators attack boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, declaring that “politically-motivated commercial actions against Israel…run counter to longstanding U.S. policy.” They urge the administration “to use every diplomatic tool to stop our trading partners from imposing such misguided actions.”