Israel to Fight Back Against EU Labeling

Israel is fighting back against the recent decision by the European Union to label products made by Jews in Yehudah and Shomron as such. After Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this week suspended official cooperation with EU institutions, a source in the Foreign Ministry said that Israel was now going to sanction EU countries that championed the idea – by keeping their personnel out of Israel and shutting down projects they are running with Palestinians in Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza.

According to a senior source in the Ministry quoted in daily business newspaper Globes, six countries – Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, France, Luxembourg and Malta – are being targeted. The six, said the source, were the biggest backers of the labeling measure. “We see these six countries as having been leading this measure for some time,” the source was quoted as saying. “At the same time some of these countries are involved in various projects to rehabilitate the Gaza strip as well as civilian projects to strengthen the Palestinian Authority in [Yehudah and Shomron]. It is important for them to be involved in these processes and so far they have received broad cooperation from Israel. That is about to change and they are about to begin finding difficulties and obstacles.” According to the source, Israel is angriest at France, which is one of the biggest backers of projects in the areas.

The specific obstacles that Israel plans to throw up were not described. The plan needs the approval of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the source said, and the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for Yehudah and Shomron, is already working on ideas, the source said. “The aim is to make it clear to the countries pushing the subject of marking goods that such conduct has a price in the Palestinian sphere,” Globes quoted the source as saying. “The decision to suspend diplomatic dialogue with the EU is only the beginning within this context. Israel has shown much good will over the years regarding various initiatives by Europe in the Palestinian sphere but it is no longer logical to continue this approach if Europe is becoming more extreme and taking measures like marking goods and encouraging a boycott.”

Last month, Israel slammed a German department store for removing products made by Jews in Yehudah and Shomron from its shelves. At issue were eight wines produced in the Golan Heights that the KaDeWe department store banned. According to the new EU rules, products made in Yehudah and Shomron cannot be labeled as Made in Israel, although the rules allow leeway for countries to implement the rules as they see fit, with removal of products considered a last resort. In some countries, for example, the label “Made in Israel” will be permitted to remain, with an additional label that says “Product of OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), West Bank.”

The store backtracked after Israeli politicians – including the Prime Minister – slammed the store. “This department store had been owned by Jews; the Nazis took it. Absurdly, the store is now labeling products from communities in Yehudah, Shomron and the Golan Heights,” said Netanyahu at a government meeting. “It started with labeling products and now we are told that the products have been removed from the shelves – a boycott in every respect.” At the very least, he said, it was a historic injustice.

At a meeting Wednesday with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Bundestag President Prof. Norbert Lammert said that Germany opposed the “unwise” labeling decision. “Germany not only didn’t agree to the decision, it rejected it,” he said, adding that even if Germany sought to encourage negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, it could “imagine a better law.”