Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday pointed an accusatory finger at the European Union, saying it should be “ashamed of itself” for announcing a decision to impose labeling guidelines on Israeli products manufactured over the Green Line.
This move is “hypocritical and applies double standards, targeting Israel when there are over 200 other conflicts around the world,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism,” he said.
“The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this [decision]. Those who will be harmed will actually be Palestinian workers in Israeli factories [over the Green Line]. The European Union should be ashamed of itself,” Netanyahu continued.
Wednesday’s move by the European Council, which will also apply to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, underscores the EU’s unhappiness over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on territory that Palestinians are seeking for a future state.
According to the guidelines published, the labels will need to point out that the product is made in an Israeli settlement, and not just the geographical origin.
The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, made similar remarks on Wednesday, saying it was “unfortunate” that in Europe in 2015 a “shameful decision such as this one” was made.
Danon compared the decision to the United Nations’ 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution, which has since been rescinded, and said that the EU move, too, should be canceled.
Netanyahu and Danon were joined by Israeli politicians from the left and the right in criticizing the EU for its move, with some calling it “anti-Semitic.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization, meanwhile, welcomed the EU decision as a positive development but said it did not go far enough.
“EU labeling of settlement products is a step in the right direction but insufficient,” the PLO’s negotiations department said on Twitter. “Products of a war crime must be banned, not just labeled.”
PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat called it a “significant move toward a total boycott of Israeli settlements, which are built illegally on occupied Palestinian lands.
“We believe that more actions are necessary to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine,” he added in a statement.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to the announcement by summoning EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson for a dressing down, according to Hebrew media.
The Foreign Ministry warned the plan could affect ties between the EU and Israel.
“Israel condemns the decision of the European Union to label Israeli goods originating over the ’67 lines. We regret that the EU chose for political reasons to take an unusual and discriminatory step which is drawn from the realm of boycotts, just as Israel is facing a wave of terror directed at all citizens,” the statement read. “The claim that this is a technical step is a cynical, baseless claim.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who traveled to Europe last month in an attempt to prevent the move, didn’t mince words.
“Labeling products is a boycott,” she declared. “Europe has today taken a discriminatory and grave step.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon called the move “a shameful step giving a prize to terrorism and the people behind it.”
“Even if this or that European has a dispute with the State of Israel regarding the status of the territory and its future, the decision to label products is pure hypocrisy,” he said.
The EU defended the move, saying it was technical rather than political and meant to streamline policies across member states.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog from the dovish Zionist Union camp called the decision “dangerous and detrimental” and said it would damage peace efforts. Like Danon, he compared the move to the UN’s decision to equate Zionism with racism 40 years ago and said the words of his father — then-ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog, who went on to become Israel’s president — still rang true.
“This decision is based on hatred, falsehood and ignorance, devoid of any moral value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper, and we must treat it as such,” he said, quoting his father.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said the move unfairly singles out Israel, describing the decision as “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.”
“European hypocrisy and hatred of Israel has crossed every line,” she said.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman charged Europe with anti-Semitism, comparing Wednesday’s decision with the continent’s darkest days.
“Every time that Europe labels Jews, its a sign that anti-Semitism, insanity and hypocrisy has taken over and that they are leading the entire free world to a catastrophe,” he said.
Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid joined the voices calling the decision anti-Semitic and said it would “strengthen terror against Israel,” in a letter to European Union countries’ ambassadors in Israel.
The only Knesset member to immediately praise the decision was MK Issawi Frej of Meretz. He said the decision appropriately differentiated between Israel and the settlements.
The Peace Now NGO expressed similar sentiments, calling the decision a “legitimate” move.
AFP, AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.