Israel, Belgium Clash Over Products Labeling

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel belgium settelement
View of the Psagot Winery in Shomron. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Israel’s deputy foreign minister canceled meetings with Belgian officials on Wednesday after a decision by Brussels earlier this week to begin labeling products made in Yehudah and Shomron.

Idan Roll said on Twitter he was scrapping meetings with the Belgian Foreign Ministry and parliament during a visit this week to the European country.

“The Belgian government’s decision to label products from Judea & Samaria strengthens extremists, does not help promote peace in the region, and shows Belgium as not contributing to regional stability,” he said in a tweet.

Belgium’s foreign office confirmed Wednesday that the country wants products from the region labeled and that it plans to increase controls on goods coming from there.

It said in a statement that Belgium continues to apply international and European law, “which makes a distinction between Israel on one hand and the Palestinian territories on the other hand.”

“We expect that these goods will be labeled correctly by exporters,” it said, noting that “we have found that it’s very difficult to confirm the exact origin of products.” It noted there was no ban on such products.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry portrayed the decision as a blow to the country’s new government — a broad coalition of both nationalist and dovish parties that has tried to project a friendlier image than previous governments under former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“The decision to label the products harms Israelis and Palestinians and is out of step with the government of Israel’s policy that is focused on improving the lives of Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and with the improvement of Israeli relations with other European countries,” the ministry said.

The European Union’s top court ruled in 2019 that EU countries must identify products made in Yehudah and Shomron on their labels. The European Court of Justice said that their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed choices” when they shop.

The European Commission said it was up to individual EU countries to ensure that labels are correct, but that the origin of produce must be made known in a way that is “not misleading to the consumer.”

Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and says other countries involved in disputes over land are not similarly sanctioned.

Belgium’s move follows a similar step by France in 2016, which in a non-binding decision urged businesses to use labels to identify goods produced in Yehudah and Shomron.

Israel condemned France’s decision at the time and a local winery took the matter to court, leading to the 2019 ECJ decision.

Reporting by AP