In a move that Israel has denounced as discriminatory, the European Union has announced that a new set of guidelines for the export of consumer products had been put in place.
Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights will be required to label their goods with unambiguous language indicating their origin lies within an Israeli occupation. The measures will impact the olive oil trade, along with poultry, dates, wine, cosmetics and other consumer goods.
No longer will Israeli farmers, vintners and other manufacturers from these regions, even those who employ Palestinian workers, be permitted to label their exports as, simply, “Made in Israel.” Instead, the European Commission will now require the words “Israeli Settlement” to follow the geographical origin of any goods exported to EU countries. The areas in question were captured by Israel in 1967.
Although the number of exports to EU countries from Jewish settlements is minimal, Israeli leaders have condemned the action, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken the decision as a serious affront to the relationship between his country and its largest trade partners.
“The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard,” Netanyahu said in a statement immediately following the decision. “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.”
One group of nearly 1,000 farmers affected by the ruling, as represented by the Jordan Valley Regional Council, have threatened to halt all exports to the EU nations, diverting their products to the U.S., Russia, and Asia, reported The Wall Street Journal.
EU diplomats were insisting that the decision was “purely technical, applying the EU policy that settlements are illegal and that European consumers should be informed where the products come from,” the Jouranl report said.
Some critics of the measure have pointed to the Commission’s inconsistency in implementing a rule that required, for the first time, a designation of origin that goes beyond stating a place on the map.
Eugene Kontorovich in an opinion published today in the Washington Post argued, “In no other context do geographic indications go beyond place names to describe the people, legal regime, or alleged wrongdoings involved in making the product. It would be like labeling goods ‘Made in China (coerced labor product).'”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the European Union’s guidelines an “irrational” move that does not contribute to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bradley Clapper of Associated Press reported that the Obama Administration appeared to disagree with critics who likened the rule to a boycott.
“We oppose efforts to isolate or delegitimize the state of Israel,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner, adding, “We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott. And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel.”
Nonetheless, a bi-partisan group of 36 U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle signed a letter stating that the action appeared to “promote a de facto boycott of Israel, a key ally and the only true democracy in the Middle East.”
It remained unclear whether the Israeli Prime Minister will adhere to the new rules.