Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The European Union continues to assert that its recently approved labeling policy for products exported from West Bank Settlement territories is simply a matter of geographical designation and origin, but according to a story by The Associated Press, the Israeli government isn’t buying it. The news agency reported on Sunday the announcement by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to “suspend contacts with European Union representatives on Mideast peace issues” as a means of protest.

The move is in response to new EU export regulations passed in early November that now require Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights to specify the origin of their goods with unambiguous language indicating Israeli occupation.

Products from the territories in question, including poultry, dates, cosmetics, wine, and olive oil, among other goods, account for just a fraction of Israeli exports to Europe. Nonetheless, Israeli officials led by the Prime Minister are denouncing the decision as discriminatory, bordering on anti-Semitic, citing continued violence precipitated by Palestinians in recent months.

On November 12, Netanyahu issued a stern statement: “The European Union 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.”

With this recent move, Netanyahu has ordered “a reassessment of the involvement of EU bodies in everything that is connected to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians,” according to the ministry’s statement on Sunday. “Until completion of the reassessment, the Prime Minister has ordered a suspension of diplomatic contacts with the EU and its representatives in this matter.”

Still, as relationships between exporters and individual members of the EU will be permitted to continue, and Middle East peace talks broke down months ago, various news agencies are left to speculate on whether the statement by the Israelis amounts to anything beyond posturing.

For its part, the EU as a 28-nation body does not recognize Israeli control over the territories seized in 1967.

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