“We regret that the EU took this politically motivated and unusual and discriminatory step,” says Israel following EU decision to label settlement products

Palestinian worker at an Israeli factory in the West BankPalestinian worker at an Israeli factory in the West Bank
  • “While there are over 200 territorial disputes worldwide, the EU labeling guidelines discriminate only against Israel”
  • EU ambassador summoned to foreign ministry to be reprimanded

By Yossi Lempkowicz

 

The announcement Wednesday by the European Commission of the decision to label products manufactured in ‘’Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights,’’ has infuriated Israel which sees the measure as “discriminatory”, “a form of boycott of the Jewish State’’ and detrimental to the peace process” with the Palestinia’’ns.

The EU measure is likely to affect Israel-EU relations.

EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, was summoned Wednesday to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem to be officially reprimanded over the decision.

“Israel condemns the decision of the European Union to label Israeli products originating from areas that are under Israeli control since 1967. We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement, particularly at this time, when Israel is confronting a wave of terrorism targeting any and all of its citizens,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

“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, including those occurring within the EU or on its doorstep. The claim that this is a technical matter is cynical and baseless,” the ministry went on to say.

One official said that “this is clearly discrimination against the Jewish State because EU boycotts do not apply to Moroccon-controlled Western Sahara, Turkish occupied northern Cyprus or China controlled Tibet.”

Gaza seems to be included in the EU notice despite the fact that Israel has no presence in the Strip anymore.

In the statement, the foreign ministry stressed that “product labeling does not advance any political process between Israel and the Palestinians. The opposite is the case – it is bound to reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel, negotiations that the EU claims to support. Product labeling will strengthen the radical elements advocating a boycott against Israel and denying Israel’s right to exist, contradicting positions that the EU publicly opposes. This recent step raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play. It may also have implications for Israel-EU relations.”

Israel’s ambassador to the EU, David Walzer, warned just before the announcement of the labeling measure that the EU might no longer be a welcome broker between Israel and the Palestinians as it wished to be.

“We made it very clear that we welcome EU contributions to the peace process. This might force us to reconsider that”.

Israel’s opposition too slammed the EU’s decision targeting Israeli products.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid took to Twitter to write: “Jews are being stabbed in the streets & the EU has given in to BDS. This decision discriminates against Israel & encourages terrorism.”

Itzik Shmuly for the Zionist Union said the EU’s decision was “stupid, harmful and unhelpful, which leaves a stain on Europe’s forehead.”

According to Shmuly, “residents of Hamburg or Copenhagen do not really understand where the Green Line starts and ends, and the decision will end up leading to a boycott of all of Israel.

“Unfortunately, Europe decided to shamefully strengthen those who lead the campaign of boycotting Israel, whose goal is to erase Israel from the map and not to promote peace,” Shmuly added.

Michael Oren of the Kulanu party and a former ambassador to the US,  said that he thinks labeling settlement products is “anti-Semitic.”

“There are 200 land disputes around the world, and they single us out, and say it’s not anti-Semitic?” he asked, incredulously.

Oren explained why, last week, he went to a Jerusalem supermarket and put “Made in Europe” stickers on European products.

“I’m not saying we should boycott Europe,” he said. “We just need to diversify. Thirty percent of our products are from Europe. We need to wean ourselves off of it.”

Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), wrote a letter to the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, in which he said that the decision would only further fan the flames of the already violent conflict.

“At a time when Palestinian terrorism is running high across Israel, the EU has decided to boycott the industrial areas in Judea and Samaria which are islands of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Businesses like these, in which Arabs and Jews work together, should be used as the gold standard for peace, not boycotted. If the EU wants to see real coexistence, they should come and visit Judea and Samaria, then it would be clear they are labeling the wrong people,” Ro’eh said.

Officials also argued that the labeling decision might also affect the employment of thousands of Palestinians working in factories in the West Bank.