EU sets rules on labelling products from Israeli settlements

European Union approves new guidelines on labelling products made in Jewish settlements, move which displeased Israel

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A worker carries boxes containing wine bottles for export at Shiloh Wineries, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 8, 2015

The European Union (EU) on Wednesday imposed new guidelines for labelling goods made in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, displeased with the labelling rules set by the EU considered it to be “discriminatory” and made several personal appeals to a number of leading European figures to stop the move.

Netanyahu added that the decision would embolden those who seek to “eliminate Israel.”

According to the new guidelines which have been imposed after three-years of careful planning by the European Commission, Israeli producers must clearly label farm goods and cosmetics which are to be sold in the EU. 

Although it will be mandatory to label goods such as fruits and vegetables, others will be voluntary. 

Britain, Belgium and Denmark already use labels to differentiate goods from Israeli settlement but now, the remaining 28-EU member states will have to follow. 

Israel's Economy Ministry estimates the impact of Wednesday's decision will be about $50 million a year.  

However, the new measures will initially affect less than 1 percent of all trade from Israel to the EU. 

Israel’s total trade with the EU amounts to about €30B ($32B).

EU ambassador, Lars Faaborg-Andersen has been summoned to Israel in protest. 

Israel’s foreign ministry has condemned the new guidelines and said it was a political move which would prompt the boycott [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)] movement.  

"We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement," said Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

BDS is a non-violent movement which allows people to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.

"It is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territorial disputes worldwide," the Ministry added. 

The continuation of illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - which both came under Israeli occupation following the Six Day War in 1967 - often raises tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and last year resulted in the breaking-off of peace talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority.

Israel walked out of talks after the Palestinian Authority announced the formation of a joint government with Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Hamas is deemed by Israel to be a “terrorist” organisation.

The collapse of talks led to a brief war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, which killed over 2,200 Palestinians - mostly civilians. Seventy two Israelis, mostly soldiers, were also killed.

Conversely, a petition signed by over 500 prominent Israelis including ex-ambassadors and former MPs welcomed the new measures. 

The new labeling system is seen as a vital step which could help ease the heightened tension amongst Israelis and Palestinians.  

“This kind of distinction can also serve to reduce the current levels of tension, fear and despair, among both Israelis and Palestinians,” the petition wrote. 

TRTWorld and agencies