‘EU to hold off on settlement product labeling’

‘EU to hold off on settlement product labeling’

Plan to label products from beyond the Green Line pushed off at American request to allow for progress on peace, report says

The Ahava factory in the West Bank settlement of Mitzpeh Shalem (Flash90)
The Ahava factory in the West Bank settlement of Mitzpeh Shalem (Flash90)

American officials acting at Israel’s behest have reportedly persuaded the European Union to delay a plan to label imported Israeli goods produced beyond the Green Line.

The Israeli government recently asked the US to intervene in an effort to block or delay the EU decision, appealing directly to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Haaretz reported Sunday, citing a senior Israeli official.

As a result, the decision to implement the labeling scheme, which was expected to be approved at an EU Foreign Affairs meeting this week, has been delayed until June, the report said.

According to European officials quoted in the report, the Americans said that the labeling plan would complicate renewed US and EU efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The delay was conditional on progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and if no breakthrough is forthcoming, the EU will initiate the labeling plan, an Israeli official was quoted as saying.

The question of labeling settlement products has long been swirling in Europe, although no policy has been implemented so far.

In 2012, a meeting of EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to label Israeli goods originating beyond the Green Line, stating that “the European Union and its members are obligated to fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and agreements with Israel regarding products from the settlements.”

In April, a group of 13 foreign ministers of EU countries signed a letter reaffirming their support for labeling products originating in Israeli settlements, a move officially supported by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Last week, former US president Jimmy Carter called on the EU to initiate  the plan. “The EU has repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank. It could therefore introduce a clear labeling of products made in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law,” he said.

South Africa has initiated a similar plan to prohibit a “Made in Israel” label from appearing on products originating beyond the Green Line.

The European Union considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights illegal, and some of its members have said that labeling products from such settlements as “made in Israel” is misleading. Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both areas captured in the 1967 Six Day War, and does not consider those areas settlements. The final status of the West Bank, also captured during the ’67 war, has yet to be determined.

JTA contributed to this report.

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