The Export-Import Bank of the United States is the country’s official export credit agency. It is an independent, self-sustaining agency of the U.S. government, with the mission to support American jobs through the facilitation of the export of American goods and services by providing financing tools for U.S. companies to compete for global sales. The role of the agency has been the subject of much criticism by conservatives and some establishment Republican lawmakers, and its authorization was allowed to lapse in July. Because of its importance as a driver for international trade, however, and as a consequence of a growing move toward bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, the bank is slated to be reauthorized this month as part of a must-pass transportation and infrastructure bill.
Senators from both parties have inserted a rider into the transportation bill designed to counter the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. President Barack Obama, who supports the bank, is expected to oppose the anti-BDS language. We urge passage of the bill with the anti-BDS language intact.
The anti-BDS language, proposed by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), calls on the agency “to consider whether applicants for loans oppose ‘policies and actions that are politically motivated’ and [that are] meant to inhibit ‘commercial relations specifically with citizens or residents of Israel.’” Similar language was included in the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that passed in July and led to the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated between the United States and eight other nations.
There has been criticism from some who believe that the proposed language unnecessarily injects the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the transportation bill. And after the gloves-off fight over the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year, few are in the mood for another drawn-out Middle East battle in Washington. But the anti-BDS language is reportedly popular among both parties in Congress, and it is a fitting answer to the recent European Union guidelines prohibiting products from the West Bank and Golan to be labeled as “made in Israel.”
It is unfortunate that the White House seems to have difficulty calling out the evil of BDS for what it is. In light of that reluctance, however, it is left to individual members of Congress to insert anti-BDS language at every opportunity and to insist upon inclusion of that language in order to allow the bill to pass. So, in this case, if the president wants to save the Export-Import Bank — and we think he should — some on Capitol Hill are insisting that they get the anti-BDS language in return. That Israel will benefit from that deal causes us no concern.
The anti-BDS language should remain in the Export-Import Bank provision of the transportation bill.