The European Union on Wednesday issued new guidelines requiring labeling of imported goods made in Israeli settlements, drawing a strong rebuke from Israel, which called the move discriminatory.
Under the guidelines, products made in settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, would be marked differently from goods made in Israel and will have to carry the word “settlement” on the label.
EU officials described the directive, which was approved by the EU executive, the European Commission, as in line with European policy, which does not recognize the occupied territories as part of Israel.
But Israeli officials called it a political move inspired by the international pro-Palestinian campaign to boycott Israeli products.
The EU does not support in any form boycott or sanctions against Israel.
Valdis Dombrovskis, EU official
“The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism. . . . The EU should be ashamed.”
The potential economic impact of the labeling is limited – settlement products are less than 1 percent of Israeli exports to Europe – but it has struck a nerve with Israel’s rightist government, which supports the settlements. The EU, along with most of the international community, considers the settlements illegal because they are built on occupied land.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the EU representative in Israel to complain about the labeling directive and warned that the step could undermine Europe’s role as a peace broker.
“The decision to label products is blatant discrimination against Israel, and Israel views it as a boycott,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. “This decision is futile and will have absolutely no effect on Israel’s policy regarding the settlements.”
Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said the labeling directive was a “clarification” requested by EU members states and “not a political stance.”
“The EU does not support in any form boycott or sanctions against Israel,” he asserted.
The new guidelines would require all 28 EU member states to mark products from Israeli settlements, mostly fresh produce, such as grapes and dates, wine, poultry, honey, olive oil and cosmetics.
Industrial goods, including processed food, are not subject to mandatory labeling.
Israel’s Economy Ministry estimates that the regulations will apply to $50 million worth of annual exports, about a quarter of the total Israeli settlement goods exported to Europe and a fraction of the $30 billion of goods and services Israel exports each year to the EU.
Since 2004, the EU has excluded Israeli settlement products from duty-free status granted to Israeli goods under a free trade agreement with Israel.
Greenberg is a McClatchy special correspondent.