New York The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly supports and praises the efforts of three Congressmen, Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN) who have publicly criticized the Saudi regime for violating its pledge to the United States to drop the Arab League boycott of Israel ( Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2007). In November 2005, Saudi leaders promised Washington that they would drop the Arab economic boycott of Israel after the Bush Administration conditioned Saudi Arabias admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the move. A month later, Saudi Arabia was granted WTO membership.
However, in June 2006, the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, publicly acknowledged for the first time that his country was continuing to enforce the Arab boycott. The WTO, which aims to promote free trade, prohibits members from engaging in discriminatory practices such as boycotts or embargoes. Al-Faisal claimed that Saudi Arabia had lifted the secondary and tertiary boycotts of Israel, which prohibit trade with companies that operate in Israel or have ties to such firms, while admitting that Saudi Arabia continues primary boycott, the embargoing of good and services originating in Israel (Jerusalem Post, June 22, 2006).
Saudi Arabias maintenance of its boycott violates WTO rules and Saudi commitments to the US. An official from the US Trade Representatives Office notes that Saudi Arabia … has taken on all WTO rights and obligations, including most-favored-nation treatment, with respect to all members, including Israel. In our view, continuing the primary boycott of Israel would not be consistent with these commitments (Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2007).
Statements by the three Congressmen on the continuing Saudi boycott:
- Mike Pence: Saudi Arabias boycott of Israel never should have existed in the first place and they should end it immediately. It is a relic of wars waged decades ago and there is simply no moral or strategic reason there should be a boycott at all. The Saudis clearly need to do a better job of living up to their commitments if they expect to have warm relations with the United States.
- Howard Berman: I strongly support efforts to end the trade boycott, which is clearly in violation of agreements the Saudis made during the WTO accession process. The Saudis made a commitment to end the boycott to then-United States trade representative Robert Portman, and I expect Saudi Arabia to live up to that promise.
- Joseph Crowley: The Saudis must immediately end the boycott. I continue to be disappointed in both the Saudi position and the Bush administrations reluctance to push a supposedly close ally of the United States on this. I will continue to talk with the US trade representative to make sure that our government is putting as much pressure on the Saudis to move forward and end the boycott. The Bush administration has done nowhere near enough in convincing the Saudi government to end its participation in an illegal boycott aimed at hurting our No. 1 ally in the Middle East. I hope that Congress will act to ensure that the boycott on Israel is ended for once and all.