The British Government intends to ban public institutions in the country from themselves banning the purchase of goods from Israel.
It will unveil rules this week that will make it harder for local town halls and public universities to enact boycotts on Israeli products, spurred by growing popular anger around the collapse of the Middle East peace process.
Israeli officials have watched with dismay how the BDS movement (or boycott divestment sanctions) has gained a foothold in parts of Europe. Last November, the European Union ruled that products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank - deemed technically illegal by the international community - would be specifically labelled as coming from occupied territories.
"Locally imposed boycotts can roll back integration as well as hinder Britain's export trade and harm international relationship," read a statement released from the British Cabinet Office. "Town hall boycotts undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism," it said, warning that institutions that went ahead would face "severe penalties".
"We welcome the decision taken by the British authorities not to allow anti-Israeli initiatives at local level," an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.
BDS activists have made significant strides in recent years as prospects for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians dimmed.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank led to numerous governments in Europe formally recognising the state of Palestine, a symbolic yet highly charged act.
The BDS movement channels the historic legacy of the global anti-apartheid campaign in the 1980s, which saw boycotts and protests heap pressure on Western policymakers.
- Washington Post, Bloomberg