Deputy FM vows to fight EU’s settlement product labeling scheme

Germany joins other European countries in expressing support for labeling products from beyond the Green Line

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

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

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin promised on Sunday that Israel would do battle against potential EU legislation what would require products originating in the West Bank to be labeled as such for the European market.

Elkin, speaking at Army Radio, was responding to reports that the German government, generally a close ally of Israel, had recently passed legislation in support of the EU labeling scheme.

“We will fight. We will deal with this phenomenon,” Elkin told Army Radio, promising to raise the issue at every turn.

“Once the UN decided that Zionism is racism — but we didn’t say that that was a lost cause,” he added, referring to the 1975 United Nations resolution that declared Zionism was a form of racism and racial discrimination. The resolution was repealed in 1991.

Elkin added that he didn’t think the German decision in support of labeling products from the settlements would greatly affect Israeli-German relations.

“There are ups and downs,” he said. “The State of Israel is obligated to deal with this issue, and we have the ability to do so.”

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

Last month, American officials reportedly persuaded the EU to delay a plan to label imported Israeli goods produced beyond the Green Line, and as a result, the decision to implement the labeling scheme, which was expected to be approved at an EU Foreign Affairs meeting in May, was said to have been delayed until June.

According to European officials, the Americans said that the labeling plan would complicate renewed US and EU efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Reportedly, the delay was conditional on progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and if no breakthrough was forthcoming, the EU would initiate the labeling plan, an Israeli official was quoted as saying.

The German government’s resolution, initiated by Germany’s Green Party, reaffirms Germany’s position that the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War are not considered by Germany as part of Israel proper.

According to Elkin, the European discussion centers on labeling products from the West Bank, and not on those produced in the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem, both areas officially annexed by Israel after 1967. However, according to Army Radio, the German resolution states, “Our view is that you can label products as ‘Made in Israel’ only if produced within the 1967 borders.”

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, foreign ministers of 13 EU countries (Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Malta) signed a letter reaffirming their support for labeling products originating in Israeli settlements.

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